The Daily Tar Heel, whose general manager has notified alumni and friends of the newspaper that it “has two years to figure out its finances,” has cut print publication to four days a week and is appealing to its audience for donations.
While maintaining a 24/7 online presence, the paper has stopped publishing a print edition on Tuesdays. Until August, the print DTH came out Monday through Friday.
“Since 2011, the DTH has operated with a deficit, shortfalls that were filled in by our investment accounts,” General Manager Betsy O’Donovan wrote on medium.com as the semester opened in August, not long after she took the position. “In recent years, the annual deficit has hovered north of $200,000. When I was hired earlier this month, our investment accounts were just below $400,000.
“Like most newspapers, our historic business model was built on a robust market for print advertising, and a bet that digital advertising could eventually replace it. Print still has power, but we have to forget our old assumptions that we know best what people want.”
The DTH is not alone; the Poynter Institute, a global think tank for journalists, reported this week that several other college newspapers had cut back their print editions, including papers at Duke, Columbia, Syracuse, Cornell, Arizona State and the universities of Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin-Madison, South Carolina, Georgia, Oregon, California-Berkeley, Nebraska, Utah, Texas-Austin and Kansas.
The DTH will continue to post online stories that otherwise would have been in a Tuesday print newspaper.
The DTH, which will be 125 years old in 2018, does not receive funds from the University or from student fees. It is a nonprofit led by a board of directors, the majority of whom are students. In 2010, it underscored its independence by moving off campus to leased space on Rosemary Street.
O’Donovan’s message included donation opportunities to individual components of the operation, such as sports department travel; multimedia units of photographers, podcasters and video journalists; the reporting staff; and software, web development and hardware. There is a “donate” button on the home page of dailytarheel.com.
She also appealed for volunteer help: “We are also open to in-kind donations of time, service and expertise. Let me know what you have to share, and how we can work together.”
Next year, The DTH also plans to offer fee-based services from its student staffers, such as graphic design, video, photography, social media and sponsored content. It also has begun selling personal announcements such as engagement, wedding and anniversary announcements and obituaries.