The GW Independent, which changed its name and production schedule this semester in an attempt to become a more mainstream newspaper, ceased publication this week, Editor in Chief Jeff Baxter said.
The weekly publication began in 1994 as The Authority, an offshoot of the American Collegiate Conservatives. It had most recently published under the name Independence Magazine and its staff members had been working to erase the paper’s conservative edge, Baxter said.
“We gave it our best shot and came up short,” he said.
He said a combination of financial and personnel problems led to the decision Sunday to fold after the paper’s Aug. 26 issues, its first edition of the semester.
“We looked at the budget numbers and said it wasn’t working,” Baxter said. “We have a great staff, but unfortunately, it was too little too late.”
Baxter said the paper could have produced a few more issues without substantial financial problems, but he did not want to involve new staff members if the paper was going to stop publishing in the middle of the year.
“Did we want to continue and put more effort when we knew it wouldn’t go past this year?” Baxter said.
Because of the small staff, Baxter said several members had academic trouble last year because they were putting too much time into The Independent.
Senior Editor Skip Oliva said he averaged 80 hours a week at the paper and saw his grades slip last semester. He told Baxter he was leaving the paper, which led to discussions last weekend about the paper folding.
“We were putting in so much work that the fun was seeping out of it,” Baxter said.
Oliva said he felt some staff members felt lost within the paper when it lost its conservative edge.
“It is easy to get people to work for a paper if it is related to an ideological cause,” Oliva said. “The readership and circulation went up (when the paper changed formats), but now you’re a mainstream paper going up against another mainstream paper.”
He said it was difficult to develop a business staff because the paper could not pay sales representatives.
But Baxter said the paper could not stand financially as a weekly, but he said he does not regret making the attempt this year.
“I wouldn’t call it a mistake,” he said. “We tried to thrust ourselves more into the spotlight and become more competitive with The Hatchet.
“I don’t think we offered people a better alternative to The Hatchet,” Baxter said. “By eliminating the conservative angle and trying to keep the bias out, we were competing head on with The Hatchet for people who wanted to write straight news.”
In the end, Baxter said the money was the key issue.
“Members of the staff had to loan personal money to the paper to keep it alive two years ago,” Baxter said. “It’s something I was willing to do.”
But Baxter said he enjoyed his work at The Independent and said he is proud of what its staff members accomplished.
“I think we could have made a valuable contribution to the campus community,” he said. “I think we did.”