Originally published in Volume II, Issue 6 on 15th December 1995 by Observer Reporter.
The publication of the national students union, USI News, lost over £20,000 last year over just three issues. The magazine, which promotes the activities of the union and takes a pro-USI editorial line is the subject of serious scrutiny from the member unions, because of its cost, poor quality and patchy distribution. Insiders attribute last year’s loss to the use of a design company and a lacklustre sponsorship drive.
The three issues of the paper, which has a print run of 15,000 copies, cost £30,000, but made only around £10,000 in sponsorship. This is despite the fact that the publication’s magazine format and nationwide distribution enables it to attain lucrative colour advertising deals. There are no full time staff working on the paper, but the part time editor and his contributors are paid.
Within USI, Union Development Officer, Mark Garrett, and Education Officer, Liam Kelly have been pushing to reform the paper’s finances, design and format. The loss made by the publication was on the agenda for USI Council two weekends ago, but delegates didn’t reach it in time to discuss it properly. Loughlin Deegan, President of UCD Students’ Union says he has concerns about USI News’ role and content; “ These are issues that have been under discussion for a lot of years. If reforms aren’t brought about pretty soon, we’ll have to question whether it’s necessary to have USI News at all”.
UCD Students’ Union Education Officer, Garrett Tubridy is equally critical; “It’s not a good publication. The magazine format costs extra money but is less readable. Change is not only desirable but necessary as well. It should be along the lines of the University Observer or the College Tribune. The editor himself wants a newspaper format but that was stopped by the Publications Committee.”
“There should be people who are dying to advertise with the a big circulation national student publication”. Mark Garrett, who is the USI Union Development Officer says he would recommend that full time editorial staff be employed, “I believe very firmly that it can’t remain in its present format and it has to change to either a tabloid newspaper format or an A4 magazine”.
“That level of expenditure (£30,000) for a national student publication paper is probably necessary but advertising revenue is not being exploited properly”.