UC Berkeley student-run newspaper's fate up in the air

UC Berkeley's student body has until midnight Wednesday to vote on extending funding for the Daily Cal which would determine the fate of the student-run newspaper. 

The current initiative that funds the independent newspaper is expiring. 

"It's a lot to take in, and I think the stakes are pretty high," Jasper Kenzo Sundeen, the editor-in-chief and president of the Daily Californian, and a senior at Cal said.

The new initiative, the Save the Daily Cal Initiative, is a $6 semester fee and a $2.50 summer fee, according to the Daily Cal. Most of the fees collected will be for general scholarship and financial aid. The current rate is $2.75 a semester. 

If the fee passes, the initiative will raise about $400,000 per year for five years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The staff of 60 is paid a monthly stipend and more than 300 students volunteer their time as reporters, photographers and designers.

"We've seen such revenue losses because of the pandemic," Sundeen said. The paper had scaled back print production from five days a week to four due to budget cuts over the last 20 years, but during the pandemic, it cut back to weekly print issues. 

"Passing this fee would allow us to bring back more print days, it will allow us to expand our online services, bring in a new app, a new website," Sundeen said.  

It would also contribute to larger stipends and more scholarships, Sundeed added, to help bolster a more diverse newsroom.

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A simple majority is needed in order to pass the initiative. At least 20% of the student body must also vote, either online or in-person in order to pass the initiative. 

UC Berkeley students have voted twice to extend funding in the last decade, according to the Daily Cal. Last year, the fee increase initiative didn't get the necessary 20 percent of student votes to pass, as the campus was largely closed.

"It's a lot to think that it could sink or swim," Lissi Ludwig, creative director of the Daily Californian, and a UC Berkeley senior said.

If the initiative fails to pass, the 150-year-old newspaper will potentially end by the end of this year. If the initiative passes, the newspaper will receive funding for another five years. 

The Associated Students UC Berkeley election results—and Daily Cal decision—will be announced Friday at the 7:30 p.m. tabulations ceremony. 

"It's a household name. It's an established institution on campus," Ludwig said. "And a very important service to everyone here."