Each semester, the Lewis & Clark Student Media Board is tasked with distributing funds to several academic journals, KLC Radio and The Pioneer Log. This pool of money comes from the Student Media Fee, a $20 per semester charge separate from the $180 per semester Student Body Fee, which supplements most other student clubs and organizations. The Pioneer Log is always awarded the highest amount of funds from the Student Media Board; yet, as the costs of production rise, this amount will no longer suffice.
The Pioneer Log typically receives its minimum budget request, requiring a reliance on inadequate ad revenue and staff pay cuts. And, as new student journals are formed, The Pioneer Log increasingly competes with fellow media sources for a sufficient budget, limiting our ability to expand as a modern news source. If administrators and trustees hope to adequately finance student media, there is a simple solution they should consider: raise the Student Media Fee.
The Pioneer Log is typically allocated around $19,000 per semester. This year, we were awarded $20,850; however, this is still not enough. We publish six issues per semester, operating on a biweekly cycle and each of these issues costs over $3,000 to produce: one third goes towards printing, another third goes towards contributors’ pay and the remaining third pays our editorial board.
We employ an average of 30 contributors, including writers, photographers and illustrators. Writers are paid a maximum of $15 per article (3 cents per word, with a cap at 500 words) and photographers and illustrators receive $10 per visual. This is equivalent to about one hour of minimum wage labor, though most contributors spend far more time than that on their work. We pride ourselves on providing contributors an opportunity to gain substantial work experience, but we would also like to be able to fairly pay them.
Our editorial staff consists of 18 students, with typically two editors per each of the six sections and two visuals editors. We also have a business manager, copy chief, web and social media manager/head of broadcasting and, of course, us — the editor-in-chief and managing editor. Each of these positions is critical to keeping this operation running. In past years, we have had to merge roles, like the social media and web manager, and terminate roles altogether. This has decreased efficiency and put additional pressures on certain team members.
We have also had to cut pay. In the past, section editors made $600 per semester ($100 per issue), but with rising production costs, we cut section editors’ pay down to $500 (a 17% pay cut). Each issue, section editors spend over 20 hours finding stories to pitch, helping contributors, editing stories and designing their pages. With our current $500 per semester pay, section editors make approximately $4 per hour, less than a third of Oregon’s minimum wage. By raising the Student Media Fee, we could reinstate reasonable pay for our section editors and contributors while increasing content production.
Some have suggested that editors and contributors receive academic credit instead of a semester stipend. However, this would void The Pioneer Log’s status as an independent news source, opening the door to prior review and censorship. Stipends are a critical component of free press at LC, preventing administrators and faculty from deciding what is and is not published.
When the Student Media Fee was created, The Pioneer Log faced a crisis of legitimacy. Formerly funded by the Student Body Fee controlled by the Associated Student of Lewis & Clark (ASLC), The Pioneer Log faced political pressures that threatened its ability to print freely and rely on a stable budget. By creating the Student Media Fee, The Pioneer Log, along with other campus media sources, believed a permanent solution was created to keep the presses running. However, at $20 per semester and a growing number of academic journals, LC’s student media organizations are struggling to survive. For The Pioneer Log and others to grow with modern times, we urge campus leaders to raise the Student Media Fee.
Hanna Merzbach & Nicholas Nerli
Hanna Merzbach is the editor-in-chief and Nicholas Nerli is the managing editor of The Pioneer Log.