Thursday, January 17, 2008

McGill Daily: Red Herring

Humour magazine’s financial situation not so funny

SSMU cuts The Red Herring’s budget to $800, enough for just one of its four yearly issues

By Tristan LaPointe News Writer
After years of underfunding and mounting debt, McGill’s only intentionally funny student publication is looking nervously at its future. This year, humour magazine The Red Herring’s budget hit an unprecedented low; SSMU originally allocated just $400 dollars for the publication’s yearly budget before doubling that figure to $800. Herring Editor-in-Chief Blake Gregory and Vice-President David Groves have picked up the slack personally. “I published the first issue out-of-pocket for $775, for a printing run of 1,700,” Gregory said. “By late October we still had no budget, but wanted to print another issue on time. So Vice-President David Groves financed the other [second] issue, leaving us $750 in debt at that time.” SSMU VP Finance & Operations Imad Barake claimed that, with the Society’s club budget at only $20,000 this year, the money to fully fund The Herring simply isn’t there. “Lots of things have reduced clubs’ budgets this year,” Barake said. “We [SSMU] owe the library a fee of $250,000 which we’ve broken up over the next four years, McGill teams now need to rent buses, and the space formerly occupied by University Bytes remains empty.” The Herring’s finances have been in trouble since the 2005-2006 academic year, the last in which the publicatoin received the $3,000 from SSMU necessary to publish four issues per year. The Herring’s 2006-2007 $1,500 budget was saved only by a supplementary non-SSMU grant. The Red Herring, which has operated as a SSMU-funded club since 1988, has built a reputation as a humorous alternative to the political newspapers that dominate McGill’s student media. During its heyday in the mid-nineties, The Herring printed runs of 10,000 copies and had plenty of contributors. The Herring has traditionally staged a biannual fundraising comedy show at Gert’s bar. The Arts Undergraduate Society fronted the money for this year’s show, which wound up garnering the publication $160 in profit but still leaving Gregory and Groves $590 in debt. Gregory said that the current low publishing volume of 1,700 copies per issue is the result of continual underfunding which has, in turn, decreased interest in contributing to or reading the magazine. “We’re an institution that shouldn’t have to fight for our existence,” Gregory said. “Queens has Golden Words that circulates 9,000 copies a week. Right now The Herring is dead because of SSMU.” Gregory also suggested that SSMU’s Haven Books may have eaten into the clubs budget. While the student-run bookstore’s total operating costs are confidential, Barake did admit that the store is expected to lose $68,000 this year, and may not break even for five more years. SSMU VP Clubs & Services Marcelle Kosman defended the budget cuts. “One hundred per cent of clubs this year have seen funding cuts,” she said. “SSMU can’t be the sole provider for all clubs anymore – with the surplus gone, the budget doesn’t allow it.” Barake pointed out other avenues for The Herring to pursue money. “There are other ways for The Herring to receive funding,” he added. “They could adopt environmentally friendly publishing practices and take from SSMU’s Green Fund. An effort on their part to generate revenue could make us reconsider as well.” Gregory and The Herring haven’t given up yet, however. Along with pursuing traditional fundraising avenues, The Herring is considering working with different student groups on special interest comedy issues. Donations to the magazine are also accepted.

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