Two proposals to restructure the operations of JMC’s Student Media Business Office and the student media policy boards for the first time in more than a decade have been approved by the Student Media Policy Committee (SMPC) and the JMC Media Board (JMCMB).
The proposed restructuring would maintain the independence of student media content creation in all of Kent State’s print, online and digital outlets but would modernize the organizational structure and some functions of the Student Media Business Office.
The restructuring is driven by three key objectives: to make all student media more relevant to audiences and advertisers, to make student media more responsive to the transformative changes affecting the external media landscape and to make student media more self-sustaining.
Traditionally, student media were primarily supported through advertising sales, but as advertising dollars have waned, student fee allocations have begun to provide most of the funding — a trend the restructuring seeks to stem, according to JMC professor and JMCMB Chair Tim Roberts.
Both proposals require the approval of Kent State’s Board of Trustees. The Board could review the proposals as early as May.
The first proposal would create a new full-time position, the Director of Student Media, to improve the guidance and support to student media advisers and oversee the business office. The university would seek a candidate experienced in the business and production aspects of media. This position would replace the current position of Manager of Student Media.
The new director, like the existing manager position, would report to the Director of JMC and have fiduciary responsibilities to the board.
The second proposal would merge the now independent SMPC and JMCMB to provide a less cumbersome oversight process. The JMCMB selects student leaders and provides oversight for co-curricular student media, including the Daily Kent Stater, TV2, KentWired.com, Black Squirrel Radio and The Burr. The SMPC provides guidance and budgetary oversight for extra-curricular publications, including A Magazine, Fusion, Luna Negra and Uhuru.
The merging of both boards was initially proposed in 2010, but the proposal never advanced through approval to implementation.
If approved now, the new board structure would provide equal representation from inside and outside JMC. Both the Director of JMC and the Director for the Center for Student Involvement would be members.
“These changes are a step, not a total solution, to make Student Media more nimble,” Roberts said. “We know that students are eager for change and want to help lead the way. Students involved with Student Media know what is happening in the external media landscape, and they know they must master the necessary skills to keep pace. Our student audiences want to access media on platforms that are relevant to them to meet their news and information needs.”
As the Boards considered these proposals, Roberts said all members emphasized a guiding principle: “In everything we are doing, the independence of students creating content is paramount.”
Frank Ryan, chair of the SMPB and an associate professor of philosophy, said a commitment to diversity also must be a basic tenet of a restructured student media.
“The prevailing perception is that KSU student media has not kept up with changes made by similar institutions elsewhere. But if so, that’s largely because the sound leadership and wise fiscal practices of the business manager have allowed us to postpone adopting the radical measures others have had to impose. For example, our ability to publish a daily newspaper and maintain five magazines is virtually unheard of anymore. Changes are needed, of course, but I hope they’re made in the spirit of student media’s excellent track record. In particular, we should maintain our stellar national leadership in promoting voices of diversity,” Ryan said.
JMC Director Thor Wasbotten also emphasized the need for agility. “The proposed restructuring is not reactive; it has been considered with great care and deliberation by both boards. The Boards recognize the tremendous work done by Lori Cantor, staff and faculty who have contributed greatly and sacrificed greatly to create and sustain student media,” he said. “At the same time, it’s important to recognize the industry itself has fundamentally changed, and our operations have not. We need a new model for managing student media outlets and for generating revenue for student media. We must ensure we are using student fee dollars judiciously.”
The proposals would provide more guidance, support and oversight to student media advisers.
“Advisers are also operating in a rapidly changing environment, where greater attention must be paid to digital media, without sacrificing the caliber of traditional media. We’ve got to give them adequate support,” Wasbotten said.
Open meetings with students, faculty and staff to discuss the proposed changes are underway.