A note on Hoya independence
Our friendly rivals at the Hoya seem interested in again renewing the fight for independence from the University, as this GWU Hatchet story reports. While the University’s decision to file for a trademark on the Hoya‘s name is a new step, nothing else has changed since last year, when the University put the kibosh on the Hoya‘s plans to flee University ownership by threatening legal action over the name. Voice writers, for reasons of journalistic principle and neighborly behavior, have supported the Hoya‘s efforts; I certainly do. But reading that article in the Hatchet, I thought it worthwhile to correct a misrepresentation by our more pedigreed newspaper brethren: Their desire to become independent doesn’t really have much to do with journalism, and it has everything do with cash money.
Georgetown administration doesn’t interfere or censor the journalism that students here do, at least not while I’ve been at the Voice—and we look critically at most everything that Georgetown administrators are up to. The only thing we are forbidden from doing, as the article notes, is publishing advertisements advocating condom manufacturers or pro-choice groups. But we can advocate for them in our self-created content as much as we like (something the Voice generally does). So while it would be nice to sell those ads, and in principle newspapers should be independent, don’t get the impression that our friends at the Hoya are sacrificing themselves on the altar of the first amendment.
Basically, they want their profits. On average, the Hoya’s budget is about $250,000. Before their last independence bid, one Hoya editor said they gave as much as $70,000 in profit back to the University, but that bid led to renegotiations about how much the University can take, which could now be as little as $16,000. The rest is spent by the Hoya on the various expenses of putting out their paper. The Voice‘s annual budget is usually just under $50,000, and we expect to make about $27,000 of that in ad revenue; the rest will come from University grants (thanks, Media Board!). Other University media, including Ye Domesday Book, WGTB, GUTV, The Fire This time, etc…, also receive Media Board grants. The Hoya‘s kick-back goes toward all of these grants, and the University provides the rest. (And, as the the University notes in the Hatchet story, it hasn’t always been this way—the University bailed the Hoya out of a deficit a few years ago).
The Hoya wants to keep their money and devote it towards resources for their paper, which could include more and higher salaries for their staff, more cameras and computers, prettier paper, a larger travel budget—all the things that newspaper folk desire. It’s completely reasonable. But it isn’t a fight about censorship.
In fact, the only time I’ve heard about censorship issues on real news content at Georgetown concerned a story a Voice reporter uncovered about certain legacy students getting huge admissions preferences. The parents of the students threatened to sue the paper if it printed their names, and Georgetown told our editors they wouldn’t defend them in court. The story ran without the names, and was weaker for it. While this is certainly a bad break, and bad for journalism, here’s a question: Could an independent college newspaper have survived the legal battle successfully?
—Tim Fernholz, Contributing Editor