SGA, media financially split

Photo: Logan Lilly
Emily Senyo and Jordan Brown get ready for their radio show on campus station, WFSE Radio (88.9 FM). This year, the campus media organizations have financially separated from SGA, but still remain recognized by the student government.
Campus media welcomes new era

By Grace Lehrian
News Editor /Spectator

Edinboro’s campus media organizations, comprised of Edinboro Television (ETV), WFSE Radio and “The Spectator” have gone financially independent, separating from the Student Government Association (SGA). All media outlets are still recognized by SGA as a campus organization, but SGA is no longer funding the groups. 

Justin Hoffman, the director of finance for SGA, sees this as an opportunity for both SGA and the campus media to grow.

“I think this gives both groups room to grow on their own and to interact in a more traditional, real world fashion, meaning that it gives both parties the opportunity to learn about the other from their own position,” said Hoffman.  Hoffman and Dr. R. James Wertz, faculty advisor of ETV, seem to agree that this has created an opportunity for growth.

Wertz considers the decision to be positive for Edinboro University students who are involved in the journalism field.  

“I think the way the students produce the news will improve.  I think they have greater responsibility, greater accountability. And those are very important factors in learning how to become a journalist,” he said. 

The learning environment has not only shifted for the media outlets, but it has become a better representative of what journalism students can look forward to in the publication world. 

The financial split has been in the works for a while now according to Dr. Anthony Peyronel, the department chair of the Department of Journalism and Public Relations.

“We’ve actually been working on this transition for many years now, and I think that it is a very good move. SGA certainly provided a steady stream of funding, but in recent years, different administrations tried to use that fact to exercise control over media coverage. From a First Amendment perspective, that’s unacceptable. So by having the media groups generate their own revenue through advertising and underwriting and by engaging in various entrepreneurial projects, it greatly strengthens their editorial independence,” said Peyronel.

The split has seemed to put journalism students in a more “academic” environment, making it a better imitation of what they can expect in a future job. The split has also reportedly debunked the idea that  students are held accountable by SGA instead of their advisors.

“I do think it was good, it provides campus media with a little more autonomy. It also puts campus media more into an academic mind, where it belongs.  So, the responsibility is not to SGA, but to their faculty advisors.  As a faculty advisor, we have had several occasions where students would kind of be bold and say ‘I don’t have to do what you’re doing, you’re our advisor, but you’re not my boss. We get money from SGA.’ And they felt more beholden to SGA than they did to their faculty advisors,” Wertz said.

From SGA’s perspective, Hoffman touched on the fact that the split is both positive and negative, but stated that he does not see this as a bad reflection between SGA and campus media outlets.

“I do not necessarily think that the split is a good or bad thing. There are both benefits as well as disadvantages for both parties involved over the split. It has given both groups an opportunity to exercise their freedom to a greater extent, however it has the potential to lead to miscommunication between the groups that may not have occurred without the split. I do not feel that the relationship between the two groups has been damaged by this,” said Hoffman.

The split does not only affect students who are involved in campus media and SGA, but it also involves students on campus who receive the news that is produced by Edinboro media outlets. 

Wertz says that “accountability becomes more important… we have to up the game a little bit.”

Students working on the news teams will be forced to create a better product in order to get the funding from advertisements that are required to run the program.  This forces those involved in the organizations to take the reader into more consideration, in order to fulfill the financial requirements.

Peyronel points out that students are now offered a new experience when it comes to working with all three of the campus media outlets.

“We’ve also created practicum courses so that students can earn academic credit for their work as leaders of the campus media organizations. In that sense, they are getting feedback and guidance from their faculty advisors that they often did not receive before since they worked in what really was a club environment. Under this model, the students are making the decisions on coverage, but they are also held to higher individual performance standards as journalists.”

Campus media outlets are willing to hear what students have to say about the news being produced.  Students of all majors are encouraged to become involved.

As for SGA and the media outlets, there seems to be no hard feelings over the split.

“It is important to note that the three campus media organizations are still recognized by SGA as such. We don’t want them to burn that bridge. While I don’t think it was healthy to rely on SGA for regular operational funding, there is no reason the groups can’t go to SGA for support on specific projects or initiatives,” said Peyronel.

Students are also now encouraged to cover events that are not just happening on campus.  This brings a more rounded mixture of news to Edinboro students. The news is being made available to students on a website shared among the three organizations.

“We are also hoping the students will expand coverage beyond campus and do a better job of covering the community. In this regard, ETV, The Spectator and WFSE are all pushing content to a common website, BoroOnline.com, which can be accessed around the clock for important campus and community information,” said Peyronel.

Peyronel seems to think that the financial independence is going well so far.

“So far, I think things have gone well. We’ve been able to reduce printing costs for The Spectator and increase advertising revenue at the same time. ETV is continuing to generate income by providing important video services to the university, and WFSE has made great progress in attracting major underwriting sponsors, something they have never done before. Faculty are also aggressively pursuing grant opportunities and just last week received a $9,900 grant from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA) in support of our efforts to expand campus media’s coverage of the communities in southern Erie County.”

The two groups still work together throughout the year. Campus media outlets are still free to propose ideas to SGA that require funding, but SGA is not required to fund.

Grace Lehrian is news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached by eupnews.spectator@gmail.com