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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Columns

Daily Cougar ending operations


Editorial cartoon drawn by Jason Poland

After nearly 76 years, The Daily Cougar’s run as the official student newspaper of the University of Houston will come to an end Friday.

Lack of revenue and declining circulation figures have forced the paper to close its doors after providing years of service.

Editor in Chief Ronnie Turner is expected to make an announcement and address all reporters and staff late today, but I wanted to break the news to all of you loyal readers first.

For the past decade, the Cougar has been attempting to deal with the same harsh realities confronting newspapers across the country; as media shifts more and more to the Internet in this new digital age, the business model our enterprise has used for decades is outdated and in many ways impossible to fix.

When the U.S. economy went into a recession in 2008, companies around Houston began spending less money on advertising — especially in print media — than they ever had before, sending the paper’s revenue into the red.

In 2008 and 2009, the Cougar posted annual losses of $3 million and $3.5 million, respectively. The paper struggled to find new sources of income, but eventually having to pay salaries and the cost to produce the paper every day took its toll.

Many print media outlets are still struggling as we so valiantly did to figure out how to make money from the World Wide Web. Unfortunately, our time to solve this dilemma is up, and we have no solution.

After Friday, The Daily Cougar will be no more.

I am telling you all of these things not because I am lamenting the paper’s insolvency, but rather because I’d like to send some message of hope to the world.

All print media businesses are struggling right now, but that doesn’t mean the print journalism profession is on its last legs. There will always be a place for newspapers and magazines in the world; people will always love reading stories.

Hopefully other student newspapers around the country (except for the Daily Texan at the University of Texas) will be able to learn from our mistakes so that they might have success where we found failure.

I have no doubt that some other publication will step in to fill the void left by our paper’s absence, because all UH students at least need access to campus news.

In its years at the University, the Cougar has been at the forefront of many prominent news stories on campus, but it has also been a watchdog of Houston journalism. From covering the Apollo 11 moon landing to reporting on the Enron scandal, the paper and its staff throughout the years have seen it all.

The world won’t stop simply because we are going away; someone needs to report the news.

Many notable individuals in the journalism industry, from Dan Rather to the School of Communication’s namesake, Jack Valenti, have passed through the halls of The Daily Cougar, leaving their marks on what has become an icon of collegiate journalism.

In closing, I would like to thank each and every one of you who picks up a copy of The Daily Cougar each day. You are the reason we staff members dedicate so much of our time to making the paper great.

Before I became the editor of the Opinion section, I served the paper as copy chief, and working here has been the greatest experience of my life. I feel that I can confidently speak on behalf of everyone who works here when I say that we will greatly miss doing this work that we love so much.

I am sorry that our time of keeping you entertained and apprised of campus news has come to end, but as the French are so fond of saying, C’est la vie.

Thank you for all of your support over the years, and we all wish you better luck and prosperity than we had in this endeavor.

Also, for those of you still reading this in disbelief, April Fools’ (FTW). See you tomorrow.

Alan Dennis is a communication senior and the latest in a long, proud line of epic Opinion editors. He may or may not — depending on his ability to make time for you — be reached at [email protected]


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