Hey everybody. If you’ve been a frequent reader in past years, you’ll probably recognize my name. I’m David Hodson, and it’s been largely through my work and the work of an atrociously small number of others that the newspaper hiding behind this cover gets made every week. In the next few paragraphs, I’m going to be asking you for a lot of favors, but I believe in starting simply, so first I’m going to ask you to do this: turn the paper beneath this cover to its staff box and count how many people are on staff here. No, seriously, go ahead; I’ll wait.
Now that you’ve taken a look, I’d ask you to realize that this is too few. With a very, very noticeable exception I’ll cover in a second, the paper has been entirely self-funded for many years. The Polytechnic itself turns 128 years old this year. We here on staff make our whole paper, writing all of the content, laying out all of it, and if we cannot produce enough content, we draw it from the few sources we pay to get the rights to, ensuring all of it fits our highest editorial standards to the best of each of our abilities. We pay a printer with money we solicit from advertisers ourselves. We send the newspaper off every Tuesday, now every other Tuesday, to our printer where it get put onto paper and it gets delivered to campus for our roughly 6000 person readership every Wednesday somewhere around noon to 1 pm. Now, due to the fact that at the end of the night there are usually three of us left working on the paper, sometimes more but often that number or less, the file we bring together at the end of the night often arrives Wednesday morning around four or five am, or gods help us,
six in the morning.
We can’t keep this up. Every single person on staff is also a student. Most of us have jobs. A small number of us have managed to find a personal life in there somewhere. We get no academic credit for what we do, despite our efforts being in some cases orders of magnitude beyond RPI’s standards for communication intensive classes. We don’t get paid; it takes all our efforts just to keep the paper afloat. We don’t get anything for the hundreds of hours we have each poured into the paper.
But for some of us it keeps being worth it. Everyone on staff is here because we all genuinely like what we do. Despite being over-worked, we are a really fun and dedicated community. We get in and stay in these trenches for the men and women beside us every week. We’re a pretty informal bunch despite all we do, and even though this work is like a vampire taking the life force from the most dedicated among us, a lot of us really wouldn’t trade it for anything, despite several of us developing minor cases of insomnia.
Now the reason I’ve said all of this is simple. I—we—need your help. At some point in the last three years, to the best of my knowledge we began to lose money. We have kept on losing it, with the end result being that at the conclusion of last year the Rensselaer Union had to bail us out. This is why we are on a biweekly schedule now. The Union is slowing down our printing schedule, allowing us more time to get our ducks in a row before every issue, and not allowing us to print unless we make enough to cover costs. Any and all profit we make, instead of going to cover our costs or improve our infrastructure like they normally would, is going straight to the Union. For the record, this is as it should be. It is my intent and the intent of the entire editorial board that we should pay off the Union entirely as soon as possible. We are self funded, and our last desire is to have to take a dime from other student activities or the Union’s budget if we can help it.
That brings us to the plea portion of today’s feature. I’m not asking for your money; I want that right out front. I sure as hell won’t say no to it, but that’s not what I want. What I want is help.
If you’re a reader, please consider coming in, writing a story sometime, or sending us tips for things you want covered, be it sports or news or events. You would not believe the anger and rudeness of some of the mail we get, in some cases rightly so, and if you care enough to yell at us, please come in to make it better. It’s been said a lot on Reddit and in person that The Poly has severely decreased in quality over the past few years, and not a single person saying that has been wrong. Our quality has dropped because all the writing is done by five or six people, none of whom are journalism majors, and almost all of whom aren’t even liberal arts majors. If this plea gets even five people out of the thousands who attend this school to come in and help, our work load will likely halve. If it brings in ten, we may have an actual damn newspaper on our hands.
If you are reading this and you are faculty or administration (I know you read the paper, and thank you for doing so) then I ask you this: consider recognizing our work somehow. Think about encouraging your students to help. If you do research and want to talk about it, please for the love of god, drop us a line and let us cover you. We really value our independence from the Institute. I hope you understand that as well, given that a lot of alumni go to us as the only source of information about on campus activities that is not strictly controlled by the Institute. Having said that, our work here is surely worth some kind of credit, and if you want to see a strong award winning newspaper again, one you can be proud of and put on your brochures, you could throw us a bone.
If you are an advertiser or business or club leader, I ask that you keep or start advertising with us. We do the level best a dozen or so people can do to be worth something to our readership. We are trying to do better every week.
This newspaper is a 128 year old Institute tradition. I have sweat and bled and cried, literally in some cases, to see that this paper keeps going to print. I have written too many articles, laid out too many sections, and conducted too many interviews to see it fail. That is why this letter is before you now. The paper has sunken to its lowest point that I know of. We have never, to the best of my knowledge, gone into debt with the Union before. We have never been forced to a biweekly publication schedule before. We are trying—I am trying—but our load is not one designed for a dozen people who took AP English in high school and thought it was alright. It wasn’t designed to have editors track down and write all the content. Help us please, because it is my belief that without five or six of you out there coming in and seeing what you can do to help, this paper will quietly not show up one Wednesday, and that will be that.