Compulsory News: Pro, Con
Vote Yes Because . . .
Managing Editor of The Radcliffe News
To have or not to have, that is the question of compulsory News subscription. With this problem posed a second time within the month Radcliffe voters have ample opportunity to decide in their own minds whether they want their college to have a newspaper or not.
With printing costs spiralling upwards, we now pay $110 to print each issue more than double what we paid two years ago. This sum excludes the price of photo ongraving, mailing and the over present incidental expenses. Although advertising normally should cover the cost of each issue, leaving subscription money to take care of the incidentals, we are still short of the $110 per issue despite the particularly large amount of advertising we have been carrying this year.
Strong Financial Motivation
A return to voluntary subscription would mean, abundant publicity or no, a severe drop in circulation which would lead to a curtailment of much of our advertising which depends on the large circulation. Therefore financial motivation is the News's most urgent argument for compulsory subscription. Without the money there can be no paper at Radcliffe.
Opponents of this legitimate cause for compulsory subscription point to Vassar which supports two semi-weekly papers from advertising and circulation revenue alone. But Vassar is strictly a woman's college lacking the large male university with its highly competitive paper that we have next door. Granted the virtues of a daily paper, Radcliffe has neither the news nor the facilities to produce more than a weekly one. Consequently the News is the only possible outlet at Radcliffe for official notices, as well as being the only means--excepting the often inadequate Agassiz boxes--by which the whole college can receive information on current and vital Radcliffe topics.
No Lack of Competitive Spirit
As for the arguments that the financial security brought by compulsory subscription would lull the News into "a non-competitive mediocrity" lacking the "pressure and incentive" to improve the paper, we can reply that so long as Radcliffe girls road the Harvard daily we will not lack the necessary competitive spirit to constantly improve the News. Far from turning future editors into complacent automations, the financial security would give the News its much needed opportunity to expand to six pages, to enlarge its staff, to improve its working quarters and conditions, and to produce a truly comprehensive Radcliffe News. The past two years that the News has had the benefit of compulsory subscriptions have seen definite, progressive improvements in the paper in terms of additional photographs, more lively makeup, and double the number of reviews published in 1945.
Five Year Plan
If two years have been able to produce such marked advances, what could not five years of security and freedom from worry produce? But compulsory subscription for more than five years could possibly be injurious in the very ways mentioned above. A time limit would act as a spur for future staffs, and a vote at the end of five years might either be a vote of confidence renewing the time lease or a hearty condemnation which would reopen all of today's arguments. A term less than five years can only be nerve-wracking for any editor who knows that an annual vote has the power to determine whether the college shall have a paper for an other two terms or no.
The other major fear that compulsory subscription would mean "the assumption of a subtle power by the people distributing the funds--whether Student Government or the Administration" is moderately groundless. As the money is collected by the News--merely through the agency of Student Government--for the use of the News, it seems highly improbable that we would be affected by any subtle limiting forces.
In short, Radcliffe needs the News; the News needs financial security, and for $1.75 per year who would object?
Vote No Because . . .
(The following article was compiled by the Crimson from the opinions of four Radcliffe undergraduates.)
Radcliffe needs a newspaper. Radcliffe is a large community with its own unique, varied, and important interests and problems; these are our concerns and they should be reported in our newspaper. We believe Radcliffe needs a newspaper, but we do not believe that newspaper should be subsidized.
The burden, then, is squarely on the News. We want a paper, but we insist that it be a good one. We should think about the compulsory subscription issue only in terms of whether the News will be better or worse in the long run.
News Must Prove Itself
In opposing the idea of taxing every girl in College each year, we believe that the kind of News Radcliffe wants to read will be achieved only through the sheer necessity of having to go out and attract subscribers. It should be the job of the News to make every girl here want to read the paper. We believe that a continuation of the present compulsory subscription requirement would produce, in the long run, exactly the opposite effect. We believe that the improvement of the News in the last few weeks has been directly caused by the staff's sudden realization that the student body must be convinced of the News' worthiness. And we believe that if another year of subsidization is voted, the News will slip back into its former uninspired ways.
These who believe that subsidy is the only way the News can survive generally cite two arguments in support of their cause. They say that rising costs have squashed them financially, and they say that the "security" of an assured subscription list would insure a Golden Ago of never-ending enlargement and improvements.
Finances in the Golden Age
What about financial pressure? The same cost spiral that hit the News has hit every other college paper in the country, and there seems to be no reason why the News should be peculiarly hard hit. It is claimed that the News still loses money on each issue over its advertising revenue. If this is true, then there is something drastically wrong with the financial handling of the paper, and the editors should take immediate steps to revamp their business set-up.
How about the Golden Age of improvements? On the face of it, it would seem that extensive improvements, on the order of six-page issues and so forth, would have to depend on a complete financial reorganization. If the News loses money running four pages, how much more would it lose if there were six pages every week? At the same time, livelier contents do not depend on finances. It doesn't cost a thing to run an interesting story instead of a dull one.
Freedom of the Press
We have not considered the greatest potential danger of compulsory subscriptions: a third party being introduced into the picture. If the Student Government collects subscription money for the News and then passes it along, it is not hard to foresee a time when the Student Government, finding itself in opposition to a policy of the News, would feel obliged to use its financial power to "convince" the editorial staff. Freedom of the press flies out the window. There are already many instances of such conflicts between interests controlling the finances and interests controlling the editorial content of college newspapers. And the News in its last two compulsory years has no great record of independent thought; our paper has been noticeably unwilling to take firm stands in opposition to any Administration or Student Government measures.
The News will prosper only when the business staff is faced with the necessity of bringing in more revenue on its own initiative. It will improve only when the editorial staff realizes that only a live, vigorous paper will attract subscribers. The artificial crutch of compulsory subscriptions accomplishes neither of these objectives. Other newspapers in the Big Seven group of Colleges get along by themselves. Smith and Vassar each have two unsubsidized newspapers. Radcliffe can surely put out one.