Cancelled Check

By Richard P. Morin / May / June 2000
October 19th, 2007
The Brown Daily Herald has long championed itself as an independent newspaper. Now, thanks to acrimonious negotiations between the BDH and the Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS), the newspaper knows what it’s like to be truly independent. In February its board of directors voted not to sign a $40,000 bulk-subscription contract with UCS and to begin free distribution of the Herald next fall.

Until now, the UCS’s contract bought 3,100 copies of the BDH’s 4,000-newspaper print run and required the newspaperto provide a number of guarantees, including, for example, providing advertising space for student organizations. It wasn’t until UCS President Seth Andrew ’00 asked the BDH to open its books to the UCS and to undergo a racial audit that this year’s negotiations took a turn for the worse. The newspaper’s board of directors then decided it was time to end the contract, a move, says Editor-in-Chief Greg Cooper ’01, that the board had been considering anyway.

In asking for a look at the racial composition of the newspaper’s staff and at how well it covers Brown’s minority communities, Andrew says he was only fulfilling his responsibility to his constituents, a third of whom are members of racial and ethnic minorities. While the issue is an important one, Cooper says, "I don’t feel it’s UCS’s job to monitor our coverage. It’s our job."

As for BDH finances, Cooper points out that, like any other privately incorporated business, the newspaper files tax returns that anyone can obtain. "How much we spend on pizza has no effect on our final product," he says. Andrew counters that his request was not about "seeing their pizza receipts" but about building trust with the Brown community.

The dustup between the UDCand the BDH may have been the excuse both sides have been looking for to end their financial relationship. Andrew and Cooper agree that with $900,000 in the bank, the newspaper no longer needs the UDC’s $40,000, which would be better spent on needier student organizations.

The real loser in the new arrangement could be the student organizations for whom the UCS contract guaranteed free advertising space. The newspaper is willing to negotiate with such groups, Cooper says. "We are still committed to covering the Brown community," he insists, "and part of that commitment is providing affordable advertising for student organizations." 

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Related Issue
May / June 2000