Thursday, September 26, 2013

"The Enemy Within" at GRU

Facing an internal competitor
Posted on 23 September 2013 by The Bell Ringer Editorial

Advertising is a tough business.

You have to make sure your prices are competitive with industry rivals while still maintaining a profit for your business. In the real world, it’s brutally cutthroat in the ad business – you either sink or swim. Competitors swoop in behind your back to swipe the deal you thought you had made, promising lower prices for the same ads with the possibility of better placement on the page.

As much as we at The Bell Ringer pride ourselves on our professionalism, we recognize that we are not a professional publication. We are first and foremost a public forum, written, produced and edited primarily by students in the journalism track of the Department of Communications. By and large, our purpose for being is to give university students the opportunity to get hands-on experience working for a print newspaper.

Over the course of more than 50 years, The Bell Ringer has built a solid reputation as an editorially independent, award-winning college newspaper that is not afraid to tackle controversial or sensitive subject matter.

But here’s the thing, we are still a college newspaper. So why exactly are we facing competition from within our own university?

With its monstrous budget and professional resources, the GReport is proving to be more than just a thorn in our side. It’s apparent from perusing its contents that the GReport solicits many of the same advertisers as The Bell Ringer and, because of its infinitely larger resources, the GReport is able to offer lower bids to potential clients than we are currently able to do. Promoting itself as and prominently plastering “campus news” on the front of its distribution boxes, potential advertisers can easily be forgiven for assuming the GReport is Georgia Regents University’s official school newspaper. But it’s not. 

And it’s frankly offensive and misleading for the public relations publication to bill itself as a news publication.

Its job is to promote and cheerlead the university, glossing over any controversy or questionable actions on the parts of university administration and the Georgia Board of Regents.

Not that there is anything against PR publications or departments, but there is a definitive difference between straight-up objective reporting, like The Bell Ringer does both in its print issues and online, and the slanted information portrayed in the GReport, meant only to sugarcoat and dodge the big issues.
We were already competing with the Office of Communications and Marketing for our readership, but now we are competing with it for our advertising revenue as well, advertising revenue that The Bell Ringer needs in order to survive and continue printing real campus news.

Why are we competing for resources with a competitor that has all the resources it could ever need? 

Why does the GReport insist on purporting itself as campus news, placing its distribution boxes right alongside or even in more prominent positions than those of The Bell Ringer? Why does it feel like GReport publicists are attempting to undercut our ad sales when The Bell Ringer so desperately needs the revenue?

We don’t consider ourselves conspiracy theorists, but we smell a rat.

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