Warren Buffett announced his donation of over $100,000 in stock to the University of Nebraska, Lincoln student newspaper, the Daily Nebraskan on July 16.
The donation to the Daily Nebraskan (DN) was included in Buffett’s $3.4 billion stock giveaway the week of July16.
The student newspaper started a fundraising campaign in January. Its goal is to reach $5 million in two to four years, according to the DN General Manager, Daniel Shattil. It has already hit over $200,000 with the help of Buffet’s donation, which was valued at $100,608 on July 16.
The funds will pay the senior editorial staff. The newspaper plans to use five percent of the funds to pay the staff each year. The production cost will continue to be paid by student fees and advertisements.
The campaign was started in response to last year’s threat of cutting student fee funds, which pay for 30 percent of the newspapers budget. The DN ended up getting the funding it requested, but the budget cut scare sprung newspaper alumni into action.
The alumni banded together last summer to come up with a plan to create enough funds to ensure the newspaper could continue to run, even if the budget was cut by the university. They reached out to alumni and readers of the Daily Nebraskan to donate or pledge donations. A crowd funding site was created as part of the national college newspapers campaign. The crowd funding site has raised about $14,000, with the other funds coming from Buffett’s and other donations.
The DN does not plan to use any of the money to increase print revenue. It will remain a daily online newspaper, with a monthly glossy magazine. Shattil said readership of both the online content and print content increased last year when the newspaper switched to an online-focused newspaper, with a monthly magazine.
“We have been making changes in the recent years to reflect the changes in the industry as a whole,” Shattil said. “Students generally have not been reading us in print as they used to, and they are reading us more online. So, we have been making a gradual transition to better reach our campus audience.”
The DN is not the only newspaper that has switched its focus to online. The Omaha World Herald (OWH) is also focusing on online newspaper content and subscriptions, though a daily newspaper is still printed.
Henry Cordes, a reporter for the OWH, has been with the newspaper since 1981. He has witnessed the transition from print to online and said it has pros and cons.
“Since 2000, the world has changed,” Cordes said. “It has changed in both good ways and bad ways. We can now be more immediate, and through analytics we can learn about our audience. However, people often think online news should be free. That’s not a business.”
Cordes said in the past the OWH focused on its print editions, and the online content was its “step-sister.” Now, however, the online content is the focus. The OWH has been pushing online subscription growth over the past year, and the rates have doubled in less than a year.
“Increasingly people are seeing the value in what we do,” Cordes said. “They decide, ‘Yeah, that’s something I can pay $10 a month for.’”
Both Cordes and Shattil agree that whether in print or online form, student journalism is important.
“We are the independent student voice of the university,” Shattil said. “We don’t want to see that voice silent.”