Faced with a looming deadline to cover its debts, Boston University’s student-run newspaper is turning to financial crowdsourcing.
Editors at The Daily Free Press say that unless the 44-year-old paper can raise enough money to pay back a large portion of its nearly $70,000 in debt by the end of December, it will have to stop publishing its weekly print edition.
The independent student news venture launched an online campaign this week via crowdfunding website, gofundme.com, asking for donations. As of Tuesday afternoon, the effort had secured more than $12,600 in contributions, including from alumni of the newspaper and from BU journalism professors.
New York Times media columnist David Carr, who began teaching at BU this year, gave $100 to the online campaign, and he tweeted about the fund-raising effort to his 460,000 followers.
“I was happy to kick in a Tweet and a couple of bucks,” Carr said. Some of his students work at the paper. “They’re good newswomen and good newsmen, and I wanted to support them.”
Carr said that student publications at college campuses have faced the same financial struggles as the rest of the newspaper industry, as more readers migrate to the Web and online advertising revenue has failed to make up for losses on the print side.
This past spring, the Free Press announced it would publish a print paper only once a week, while shifting to a digital-first model, posting daily content to its website, which recently got a makeover.
Carr said he is a “strong advocate for digital journalism” but described the print version of the Free Press as an attractive, reader-friendly product worth keeping.”
Print articles have a particular appeal for student journalists, he said. With online-only stories, “you can’t really send them home to your parents,” Carr said.
The newspaper accumulated nearly $70,000 in debt over the past several years, prompting its publisher to threaten to stop printing it if a large portion of what is owed is not resolved by Dec. 31, according to a joint statement from editor-in-chief Kyle Plantz and Back Bay Publishing Co. chairman Tyler Lay.
Plantz said Tuesday afternoon that he and others at the paper are overwhelmed by the donations so far.
“It’s so great to see not only our staff members and family and friends, but also to hear from alumni and people who haven’t heard of us or read us to donate just because they love student journalism,” he said.Matt Rocheleau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele