Georgetown paper seeks independence from school

The Hoya, Georgetown University’s biweekly student newspaper, is seeking editorial and financial independence from its school.

“We don’t feel the university is as invested in us as we are,” said senior Josh Zumbrun, chairman of The Hoya’s Board of Directors, which oversees management of the publication.

Attainting independence might allow the newspaper to increase its circulation, publish special editions and update equipment, editor-in-chief Nick Timiraos said. Nationwide, more than 100 college newspapers, including The Hatchet, are editorially independent and do not rely on school funding to support their operations.

In an opinion piece published earlier this month, he also cited the paper’s desire to pay its editors. An independent Hoya would allow its editors to oversee its budget allocations and hire more business staff to increase advertising revenue.

“As a matter of fairness, editors that work 30 and more hours every week should be paid,” Timiraos wrote.

Under the administration of a Catholic, Jesuit school, the 85-year-old Hoya occasionally finds itself turning away perspective advertisers looking to promote political stances in conflict with those of the Catholic Church. Timiraos was quick to reiterate, however, that the newspaper does not point to “any single isolated issue” that has led to their call for independence.

Georgetown spokeswoman Julie Bataille said The Hoya’s leadership is involved in ongoing dialogue with the school’s Office of Student Affairs to discuss the paper’s prospects for independence.

Timiraos could not outline a time frame for the discussions.

The Hoya operates on a $250,000 budget, Timiraos wrote in his editorial, and generates a $40,000 profit every year. An organization called the Media Board chooses how to allocate money among all of the university’s media outlets. The presence of a Media Board, Timiraos wrote, gives editors little incentive to work toward a profit.

Both Zumbrun and Timiraos pointed to the “bureaucratic group” that any student organization at a large university must navigate as a main source of frustration. By allowing the publication to bypass Georgetown’s red tape, Timiraos said, its editors could manage the paper’s budget and avoid asking for permission to print certain articles.

If it were to become financially independent, the newspaper would have to address issues such as rent agreements and its name as well as monetary and distribution concerns.

“The hard work is figuring out a plan to cut those financial ties (to the university) without running the paper into the ground,” said Paul Connolly, The Hatchet’s editor in chief in 1993-94, the first year GW’s paper became independent.

“Financial independence is probably the biggest challenge, but it’s also liberating,” Connolly added.

Among the steps The Hatchet took when it decided to become independent were hiring a lawyer, incorporating itself as a non-profit organization, appointing a board of directors and talking to other independent newspapers, said Deborah Solomon, The Hatchet’s 1992-93 editor in chief.

“Journalism is always best when those reporting the news have a direct stake in the product,” Connolly said. “And I can’t think of a more direct stake than being a student journalist working on an independent college newspaper.”

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