The Daily Californian: A look into the virus impact on the publication

A need to understand where and why the Student Publication needs help

Full disclosure: I was a beat reporter for The Daily Californian between September 2015 and May 2018. During that time, I was a part of the sports staff with many talented writers including the current editor-in-chief, Josh Yuen.

When I first started at Cal, I had no intention of pursuing journalism, but I knew I had a passion for sports and a growing interest in writing. I was a budding political science major that wanted to get my Biological Sciences breadth requirement out of the way. Interestingly enough, I was in an infectious disease course at the peak of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. That particular day, my attention was caught when someone was putting their copy of The Daily Californian’s issue away. I don’t really remember why, but that launched my journey. 

I might be biased here, but I think we should all support The Daily Californian, however, we can. After some disagreements with the university following a 1971 editorial leading up to the second anniversary of the People’s Park riot, the publication became an independent non-profit organization and the primary newspaper for the university and the city of Berkeley. As a result of its independence, the newspaper has depended solely on advertising, sales revenue, and donations for funding.

Over the last decade and a half, The Daily Californian has had to get creative to ensure it can continue its weekly operations. According to current editor-in-chief Josh Yuen, “in 2008, the editor-in-chief at the time, Brian Thomas, made the decision to cut print for [sic] five days to four due to budget constraints.” As media evolved, the publication added mobile advertising and other sponsored content, but they still had to cut over $120,000 to their annual budget and still ended the year with deficits. There’s currently a $2.50-per-semester fee (a third of which goes toward student financial aid) that supports the paper’s operations, which is set to expire in 2022. 

Like many of the nonprofit organizations across the world, The Daily Californian's operations have been adversely affected by the coronavirus. As the independent, student-run paper of record for both the University of California, Berkeley and the city of Berkeley, the majority of our funding stems from advertising and sales revenue. Even before COVID-19, our publication faced a steep challenge to continue printing four days per week, as we have since 2008, and supporting our student journalists, editors and managers to the fullest extent possible. We hold an important responsibility to our community to continue our operations on a weekly basis, but will also continue facing financial constraints as long as COVID-19 persists. - Josh Yuen, Editor in Chief of The Daily Californian

With the coronavirus outbreak, the publication’s challenges have become more pronounced. The printing schedule has decreased to just once a week. Special issues for March Madness and Cal Day have been canceled, which means fewer opportunities for printing advertisements in issues that generally results in more people picking up a paper copy. Advertising partnerships with local businesses are almost nonexistent since the start of the outbreak.

For those of you that have been to a home football game, have you seen the Game Day issues with fascinating stories and beautiful photos that are being handed out as you walk into Memorial Stadium? For those of you that still keep an eye on what’s going on in Berkeley, have you seen how much content The Daily Californian continues to publish in spite of the uncertainties surrounding the student journalists’ academic future? They’ve recently launched a campaign, #MyPleaForDC, to help cope with their financial constraints. If you can, please support the dedicated student staff by donating here: https://donate.dailycal.org/donate/. If you can’t, pick up a paper copy the next time you’re on campus or at a game. You might find a cool story or not, but you’d certainly be helping out.