Education

Efforts fail to revive UC Davis student newspaper in print

From left, Sasha Lekach, Jeremy Ogul and Alysoun Bonde work at The California Aggie, the campus newspaper at UC Davis, in 2009. The publication maintains a Web presence but went out of print last year,
From left, Sasha Lekach, Jeremy Ogul and Alysoun Bonde work at The California Aggie, the campus newspaper at UC Davis, in 2009. The publication maintains a Web presence but went out of print last year, Sacramento Bee file

Students at UC Davis aren’t likely to see a printed campus newspaper anytime soon.

The California Aggie, which went out of print last year after running out of money, tried last month to find a publisher to print its copies in exchange for a share of revenue. But the student paper received no offers by the Jan. 26 deadline, despite an extension of the bidding process by a month.

Editors at the student paper had hoped The Davis Enterprise would bid. But those hopes were dashed after The Enterprise shut its printing plant earlier this month to consolidate its operations with a sister paper in Fairfield.

“We were relying on The Davis Enterprise, but then their printing press fell through,” said Aggie editor-in-chief Muna Sadek.

The setback has student leaders scrambling to figure out the future of the century-old publication.

While the Aggie has maintained a volunteer staff of 50 reporters and editors, coverage has taken a hit, with stories posted online periodically. As recently as 2008, the Aggie printed 12,000 copies, five days a week. Sadek said students are still reading the paper online, but a printed product makes the Aggie more relevant on campus.

“Print is the direction that we need to go in,” she said. “For readers, they are more aware of the Aggie’s presence when they see it. You can walk into class and grab the Aggie.”

This latest development comes after a number of stumbles in the last year. A tentative printing agreement with the Vacaville Reporter was abruptly scrapped by Sadek on the advice of UC Davis administrators, who suggested she pursue an open bidding process instead.

That deal would have kept the Aggie in print in exchange for advertising revenue. Jim Gleim, the Vacaville newspaper publisher, said the new bid request was clouded by “too much uncertainty,” pointing to a 10-day no penalty exit clause.

“I don’t think any reasonable newspaper publisher would say this makes a lot of sense,” he said.

Gleim said his company, New York-based Digital First Media, was the perfect candidate to partner with the Aggie, given its collection of properties around Davis, including the Woodland Daily Democrat and Chico Enterprise-Record. Digital First also owns the San Jose Mercury News and Los Angeles Daily News.

He added there was “real opportunity” for both parties to benefit from an internship program in which professional journalists could mentor Aggie staffers.

While the Aggie receives its campus offices rent-free, it continues to rack up phone and maintenance expenses totaling several thousands of dollars. Those bills are being paid by the Associated Students of UC Davis.

ASUCD business manager Janice Corbett declined to discuss what options the student government and the university are examining to keep the Aggie afloat, only saying that a new model will be pursued.

Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.

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