In April 2016, CUSU funding cuts threatened the publication's print edition, sparking controversyLouis Ashworth

CUSU-funded newspaper The Cambridge Student has stopped producing a paper edition, switching to a online-only format and ending an 19-year print run.

The decision to end its print publication was made by the TCS board of directors and members of its current editorial team at the end of Easter term.

Current Chief Editor Edmund Crawley told Varsity that TCS volunteers had decided before summer to “move TCS to online-only”, which they felt was “a more fitting platform for our vision of the paper”.

TCS was founded by CUSU in 1999, and for most of its history released a print edition every Thursday of term, funded by direct contributions from the student union and from advertising revenue. From 2016 it began to be printed once every fortnight, following a substantial cut to its budget.

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The decision to quietly end the newspaper’s print edition is a marked change from 2016, when funding cuts by CUSU threatening its print run were met with strong opposition by its editorial team, and provoked a heated debate. Though its budget was slashed, it maintained a fortnightly print edition by diverting funds intended for redeveloping its website.

Crawley said its current team felt “given the choice, we'd rather put our energies and available funds (including the old print budget) into the website and other new projects”.

TCS received an extra £4,000 from CUSU as part of the student union’s budget last year, meaning its team have a total of £11,000 to spend this year. The move to online-only is likely to diminish the newspaper’s advertising income – an area where it had been falling short of targets even with a print edition.

CUSU President Evie Aspinall confirmed the change, saying “the rationale behind this was a desire by TCS to improve their online presence,” as “it was believed that their current website was holding them back”. She added the move was “part of a wider, upcoming rebrand of TCS”.

TCS and CUSU came into disagreement in January over the student union’s budget review. CUSU said “print continues to perform far below that expected with a significant loss in revenue from TCS expected for the end of the year”. TCS contested this, and said they saw “regrettable inaccuracies” in the report. Both sides eventually accepted CUSU’s statement had been accurate.

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CUSU President Daisy Eyre refused to release TCS income figures to the student body, and said “availability of precise, current knowledge... may have an impact on strategies”. It had been budgeted to bring in £12,180 from advertising.

In 2016, CUSU threatened to end TCS’s paper edition in 2016 by passing cuts which saw its printing budget removed. Its 21st April 2016 edition, leading with the front-page headline “Is this the end of our paper?”, featured pleas from former editors and TCS alumni, calling for the paper’s print edition be saved. The CUSU president from when TCS was created, Tristan Jones, wrote: “to go online only would, I fear, be to remove TCS from the institution”.

Internal CUSU emails seen by Varsity showed CUSU’s general manager, Mark McCormack, said that “structural problems with CUSU’s funding model” had made the union seek cost-cutting initiatives – with ending TCS’ print run floated as an option to CUSU Council. McCormack added that “the cost of the paper has for some time outweighed the revenue it brings in.”


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CUSU and the editorial team of TCS clashed over the issue for several weeks. One former editor labelled actions undertaken by CUSU as “incompetence”, and said that it was “CUSU staff who are responsible for the £12,000… drop in TCS revenue over a single-year period”, with another blaming its financial woes on poor management by CUSU, which is responsible for selling advertising in the paper.

The situation came to a head during a tense CUSU Council, where the cuts were ratified by student representatives. A proposed motion to increase the allocated budget for TCS by £5,000 by raising more sponsorship for the paper was shot down after a series of tight votes.

Its print run was ultimately saved for two further years, however, after the paper’s Michaelmas 2016 editors reached a deal with former CUSU President Amatey Doku, which allowed it to continue producing a print edition once a fortnight, with a reduced print run – and at the cost of further website development.

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