This summer, I sat in the back office of my internship on my lunch break on a Zoom call with past editors, alumni and advisors of The Nevada Sagebrush. I did this a lot — sitting in a small, dimly lit room warmed by the Las Vegas sun on these Zoom calls.
During these meetings we laughed, caught up and chatted about funny Sagebrush memories, but this was not the reason we were there. A dark shadow formed over these meetings when someone would exclaim “Okay, time to get to work,” because the true purpose of these meetings was to talk about a distressing reality: The Nevada Sagebrush is dying.
A very brief history of The Nevada Sagebrush
The Nevada Sagebrush was founded in October 1893 and we are one of the oldest student organizations on this campus. Formed in opposition of the Board of Regents, students met in secret on Oct. 1, 1893 to form what was then known as “The Student Record.” On Oct. 19, 1893 the first issue was published.
That is what started it all. A group of defiant students looking to shine a light on university news and the behind the scenes of this institution. This deficiency is something we still hold close to our hearts. Showing up to public meetings to the surprise of administrators, obtaining public records students did not even know existed and shining a light on some of the shortcomings of this university.
We are known by administrators on this campus and have breached a barrier of communication with high powered people on this campus, like Brian Sandoval, president of the University of Nevada, Reno.
Afterall, we are the campus watchdogs, we hold information currently unknown to students, things we hope to publish soon. However, our vision has become somewhat obscured in the last few years due to deep financial troubles.
We need your help
I, Emerson Drewes, editor-in-chief of The Nevada Sagebrush, am asking myself and on behalf of the Sagebrush staff for you to vote “yes” on question one. Question one is an ASUN 2023 ballot question that will help fund all four student media: The Nevada Sagebrush, Wolf Pack Radio, Insight Magazine and Brushfire Literature and Arts Journal, at just .67 cents per credit. Here is the exact wording:
“Shall the Senate of the Associated Students be granted the authority to add a student media fee that will cover the budget for The Sagebrush, Insight Magazine, Brushfire Arts & Literature Journal, and Wolfpack Radio at .67 cents per credit taken?”
To save you from doing the math, for the average 15-credit student this fee would cost you $10.05 per semester. That’s it. And this money will fund all four of us for a lifetime.
It is hard to ask for money from students, trust me, I am one. However, hear our pitch first.
For us this money is everything. It would help fund us fully and hopefully bring back printing in some capacity — this means holding up more newspapers at basketball games when the rivals are announced on the court or just flipping through the rough textured pages in class.
We could pay our reporters more so they can focus solely on the Sagebrush and serving the students, without having two other jobs in the way. We could expand our staff as well to create more stories, photos, events, podcasts or video components. Or even make paid volunteer positions to pay people like you.
Our equipment would get a revamp. Photos of theater events, sports games and protests would be even better and clearer than before.
Most importantly, we could provide you, the students, with better, more high quality reporting. Stories would get longer, more colorful and in-depth, we could travel and get a wider scope of Nevada news and increase our presence on campus as watchdogs and fellow concerned students.
The past few years financially
The Sagebrush has been held to the light as an acclaimed student newspaper. With many accolades, our reporters and editors being some of the best students in the Reynolds School of Journalism and many of which will go on to large media organizations like The New York Times or The Washington Post. However, all of these awards and medals have been harder to achieve due to a severe lack of funding.
People expect us to go above and beyond our very small pay rates and create verbose and dynamic stories, but the truth is: it all costs money. Gas money, travel expenses, paying for public records, among them. Our student reporters can hardly juggle while some of our staff have three jobs to pay their rent and the Sagebrush itself can hardly stomach buying another subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.
Running a newspaper, yes, even a student newspaper, costs thousands, even millions of dollars, to run at full capacity. In our heyday we made well over $150 thousand, but now our “thousands” are dwindling. The number in our reserves, or bank account in layman’s terms, is $73 thousand. Our operating costs are $27 thousand a year, this is bare bones with no extra expenses.
Right now, we are not a full capacity student newspaper — we’re drowning.
For transparency, the Sagebrush receives assistance from the university, things like workers’ compensation and paying for the electricity bill for our office located in the Joe Crowley Student Union. However the rest is all us; staff wages, printing costs — something we can’t do anymore due to the exorbitant prices and lack of a printing press — subscriptions and new equipment all come out of our bank account.
We pride ourselves on being “independent” but it is hard when all of the money for our organization comes solely from advertising and the revenue is shoddy every year.
This year, we’ll make it through to see the end, having around $30 thousand contracted. However, during the 2021 to 2022 school year, we barely made $14 thousand. If that happens two more times, our reserves would be depleted and we would be dead.
Take a moment to imagine this university without student media. The stories you would miss out on, the music that would never have played in your ears and the art and poetry that would have never touched your soul. This decision is ultimately up to you as a student, but I hope the words and history of The Nevada Sagebrush, and all four student media combined, compel you to give us your vote. After all, student media is here for you in the first place.
So, that is why I am here asking you to vote “yes” on question one. Use your voice during this election season and save student media.
Emerson Drewes, editor-in-chief of The Nevada Sagebrush for 2022 to 2023