The Daily Lobo is currently participating in the inaugural year of the fundraising competition College Media Madness, hosted by the Daily Orange, the independent student newspaper at Syracuse University.
“In an effort to try to capture the competitive spirit of March Madness, we thought, ‘Well, what if we made it some sort of challenge with other student newsrooms?’” Haley Robertson, the fundraising coordinator for the Daily Orange, said.
The money raised for the Lobo will be put into the University of New Mexico Foundation Jim Fisher Fund, named after Jim Fisher, a former business manager for the Daily Lobo until 2016 and advocate for student publications. Donations will go towards the support of all endeavors at the Daily Lobo.
The Daily Lobo employs around 90-100 student reporters, photographers and staff each year. These students are tasked with creating digital content, a weekly printed newspaper and a tri-weekly online newsletter.
“We print 5,000 papers weekly and send out email newsletter to 16,800 subscribers three times per week. Over the last year, the Daily Lobo has garnered between 22,000-100,000 web visitors each month,” the Daily Lobo said in a press release.
The money to fund these operations comes from both student fees and ad revenue, but Alex McCausland, the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo, said the Lobo is still struggling, and any money raised through College Media Madness makes a difference.
“All the money that we get from any kind of fundraising effort really goes a long way,” McCausland said. “We've been chronically underfunded for a while now. We could use all the money we can get.”
Ad revenue, which makes up 80% of the funding for the Lobo, has also been on the decline amidst the ongoing pandemic. Many local businesses who used to advertise in the paper have been struggling financially or have closed.
“It's just been super, super difficult for businesses to function (during) the pandemic, and the end result is advertising has taken a huge hit,” Daven Quelle, the UNM Student Publications business manager, said.
Quelle went on to say the Daily Lobo may have to turn to more fundraising efforts in the future to continue to support its operations. While major media outlets are able to generate revenue through subscription services, that business model isn’t feasible for smaller newspapers.
"I think we have to seek to diversify revenue streams, and I don't think that fundraising should be considered revenue necessarily, but I think as support for the organization and operation it's going to have to be in the mix,” Quelle said.
The issue of newsrooms lacking funding isn’t unique to the Lobo. According to an article by the New York Times, 37,000 news media employees have been laid off, furloughed or have had a pay reduction during the pandemic.
The Daily Orange said part of the reason they wanted to create the competition is to help keep student journalism afloat during this tumultuous time.
“Donations like this are so vital to keep things going,” Robertson said. “Not only are these newsrooms doing incredible work and are a great source of hyper-local coverage in their communities, but they're also the training grounds for the next generation of journalists.”
For the Daily Lobo, it means keeping alive a perspective that isn’t always provided by local news outlets. McCausland referenced the Lobo’s coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer as a key example.
“We offered, in my opinion, an essential counterbalance to the perspectives that were presented by other local media organizations, like KOB and the Albuquerque Journal,” McCausland said. “We made a really strong effort to try to represent things accurately and give an equal weight to protesters' voices. If we didn't have the money to stay around, that just wouldn't exist.”
Currently the Daily Lobo stands at 15th place in the competition with just over $1,000 raised. Those interested in donating to help fund the Daily Lobo can visit the College Media Madness website for more information.
Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @madelinepukite