Report recommends ASUS pull the plug on The Tartan

The fate of the ASUS publication to be decided next week

Former Tartan co-editor in chief Brendan Goodman fights for the publication at January's ASUS Assembly.
Former Tartan co-editor in chief Brendan Goodman fights for the publication at January's ASUS Assembly.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

After two years and two unsuccessful attempts at re-launching the publication, The Tartan may be facing its final days.

On Oct. 1, the ASUS Advisory Board will reaffirm their formal recommendation to the ASUS Assembly to remove The Tartan from ASUS policy before they hold a vote on what actions to take regarding the Arts and Science-specific publication.

Removal from ASUS policy would erase The Tartan as a student publication.

At last year’s ASUS Annual General Meeting (AGM) on March 24, 2015, the assembly passed a motion to have a full assessment done of The Tartan after discussions of cancelling the online publication.

On Sept. 17, the Advisory Board presented their report to ASUS Assembly for discussion before the vote next week. The report consisted of four sections: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to The Tartan.

According to Francis Campbell, chair of the Advisory Board, their recommendation is based upon the history of The Tartan, its readership information, its original intent and the financial and time investments.

“Most people that know about The Tartan know about its history as, sort of, a series of failures,” Campbell, ArtSci ’17, said.

Since its creation, The Tartan has seen several roadblocks. Campbell described difficulties in fall 2014 acquiring media insurance, a lack of sustained and consistent article postings, and insufficient marketing initiatives.

According to Campbell, while The Tartan originally aimed to appeal to a target audience of ArtSci students, their articles were erratic and general in nature.

“The original mission was good,” he said, “but they didn’t really stick to that in terms of the actual articles they published.”

Over the summer, the ASUS Advisory Board conducted their investigation of the publication.

Campbell says that by the end of the summer, two options prevailed: either a significant rebrand and restructure, or complete removal and erasure of the publication.

To the board, the first option would require editorial and operational autonomy to be granted to The Tartan, which Campbell called “a ridiculous amount of work, for the small niche market it applied to.”

“This would have been the third push in two years,” he said. “At some point you just have to step back, toss your chips in, and say it’s not working.”

Campbell said he maintains that The Tartan shouldn’t be thrown another lifeline.

“If someone wanted it to be successful, they would have put the effort in,” he said.

At ASUS Assembly next week, Campbell says the Board will present the committee’s viewpoint and release all financial information pertaining to The Tartan’s history.

“Since it was built on student dollars, it only makes sense to release it all,” he said.

However, Campbell added that the publication was more a concern of time and energy rather than a considerable financial investment.

The Tartan didn’t have any considerable marketing costs, and their website was bundled with the ASUS website, which avoided additional hosting fees. The only fees Campbell could recall were from events such as the Sidewalk Sale.

Campbell says ASUS plans to keep all information pertaining to The Tartan available, even if the assembly removes it from policy next week.

This information will be available for future students looking to establish a new publication on campus, Campbell said. He didn’t indicate where this information would be available.

The current ASUS President, Brandon Jamieson said he defends the recommendation of the ASUS Advisory Board.

“Ultimately, I believe that the process by which the Tartan was analyzed was fair, and as such, produced a fair result”, Jamieson, ArtSci '17, told The Journal via email.

Jamieson said that he firmly believed in The Tartan’s philosophy, but, as the report states, the paper can’t sustain itself without major internal reconstruction.

“Of late, the Tartan and its management have undergone a great deal of criticism. Whether or not you perceive of the Tartan as a success or failure, it is worth noting the dedication, perseverance, and hard work that many students put into the success of this paper,” Jamieson said.

During the ASUS Annual General Meeting (AGM) in March, members of ASUS found ending The Tartan to be premature and they instead voted to have the publication undergo a review.

“In the society’s history, there have been growing pains, but this is a reality to build and move forward,” then-Internal Affairs Commissioner Jon Wiseman said, according to AGM minutes.

According to Wiseman, ArtSci ’16, “we have a long history of publications working in ASUS. These things take time. In order to grow as a society, we need to step back sometimes and reflect.”

Then-AMS Representative Tamarra Wallace, ArtSci ’16, also supported The Tartan at the time.

“It is premature to consider terminating The Tartan,” she said. “We should allow it to improve. The infrastructure foundation is already in place. This base will allow The Tartan to grow.”

According to AGM minutes, she added that the publication allowed students “an opportunity to have their voices heard, at a low­risk and low­cost to ASUS”.

Jesse Shewfelt, The Tartan’s Assistant Editor for 2014-2015, meanwhile, said the publication’s team had a vision, but their follow-through was shaky.

The Tartan had a great ‘big picture’ of what the publication ought to have been,” Shewfelt, ArtSci ’17, said, in an interview with The Journal.

However, he added, “the hard work — acquiring articles and actually driving the publication — never managed to get it off the ground.”

For Shewfelt, the paper was ultimately “a sweet car with no wheels or gas.”

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