From the Newsroom: The Daily and Northwestern

Maddie Burakoff, Print Managing Editor

In this series, Daily staff members hope to provide more transparency about how we operate. If you would like to submit a question to be answered here, please send an email to [email protected].

It’s a common misconception that, as a student group, The Daily gets money from Northwestern to run our paper or is overseen by faculty advisers.

In reality, The Daily isn’t directly affiliated with or funded by the University. The money that keeps our newsroom running — printing our papers, buying equipment, paying our staffers and covering all our other costs — comes from advertisements we sell or donations we receive. And unlike newspapers at some schools, we aren’t overseen by Northwestern or Medill faculty. We don’t receive course credit for the hours we spend in the newsroom, nor do we have have a faculty adviser editing our content.

The Students Publishing Company, our current publisher, was founded in May 1922 to oversee The Daily, Syllabus Yearbook and now-shuttered humor magazine The Purple Parrot. Like we explained in our last From The Newsroom post, the SPC board (which includes faculty, alumni and students) helps manage our finances and offers legal and ethical advice if we want it, but doesn’t have editorial control over our content. They’re a big part of why we are able to keep up with all the expenses of running a daily paper without turning to Northwestern for money.

In the past, we’ve had our share of ups and downs in terms of finances. In October 1952, a special edition of our paper declared, “The Daily is going broke,” and called on the campus community to pitch in to keep the publication afloat. (“It seems the fad these days is revealing one’s income,” staffers wrote in an editorial at the time. “Well, we wish we had one to reveal.”)

The University did previously help fund The Daily’s operations. As of 1973, NU gave SPC an annual stipend of $27,000 to distribute the paper on campus. Northwestern cut our funding in 1983, though, and established the financially-independent model we have now.

“It’s a little awkward if you have the daily newspaper connected with the administration,” Grant Duers, who was the SPC general manager in 1983, said at the time. “People start asking funny questions.”

We place a lot of value on our ability to stay independent of NU funding and oversight. As a campus paper, a lot of our coverage naturally centers on Northwestern and its administrators. So, if our finances relied on those administrators, we’d be put in a tough position. Being self-sufficient gives us the freedom to report on whatever we think is important, whether positive or negative, without feeling like the stories we produce could put our budget in jeopardy.

Of course, it’s hard for us to fully separate ourselves from Northwestern. We are, after all, still students at this school. We work out of a University space in Norris. We write about issues that affect our student body while being affected by them ourselves. But we at least have the privilege of being self-funded and student-run; this lets us fill our paper with stories we think are meaningful and fair, based only on our own judgment.

In the end, all the editorial decisions that go into creating our content are made directly by the students sitting in our newsroom — not by administrators or faculty members, and not rooted in the fear of losing our funding.

When we tell stories that matter, we take pride in the fact that we’ve shaped them ourselves. And when we make mistakes, we shoulder them too, because they’re our responsibility. No matter what, though, we know The Daily is fully our own, and we don’t take that for granted.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @madsburk