Financial woes force Howard U. paper to go online-only for rest of spring semester

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The advisory board of Howard University's student paper voted Wednesday to allow the Hilltop to publish online-only issues for the rest of the semester. The board voted in early March to halt printing when it discovered the paper owed $48,000 in fall semester printing costs.

But Hilltop Editor in Chief Drew Costley said he is unhappy with the board's decision and said some board members do not support a daily Hilltop, which transitioned from weekly publication in 2005. The advisory board, which governs the paper, is composed of nine student leaders and eight faculty and university staff.

"I disagree with the decision completely," said Costley, who is a board member but was not present at Wednesday's meeting, of the move to online-only publication. "My concern is that they have to train the business staff in how to generate online advertising revenue. None of them know anything about online advertising."

Although the Hilltop has received outside help from organizations and alumni in paying its debt to its printer, The Washington Times, Costley said the paper still owes about $18,000. He discovered in December the paper's business staff had not been sending invoices to advertisers for over a month, which caused about $40,000 in lost revenue. The Hilltop, which receives over 60 percent of its funding from the university and the rest from ad sales, had not seen enough of an increase in university funding since it moved to daily publication to stay afloat financially, Costley said.

"We've been skating on thin ice since the newspaper started as a daily publication," he said.

Costley also told Black College Wire last week that $20,000 was missing from the paper's account. But he told the Student Press Law Center on Friday that he was told only $9,000 is now unaccounted for.

The Student Affairs office will continue paying for the paper's staff salaries while the Hilltop is published online and will pay the costs of printing a graduation edition of the paper at the end of the semester. The board also formed a subcommittee to look into long-term solutions to the paper's financial problems, said a university spokesman who would not be named.

Costley said he was skeptical that the proposed subcommittee would actually solve the Hilltop's financial woes. He also believes the board did not follow proper protocol at the March 6 meeting where it voted to halt publication of the paper. Board policy requires 11 members to be present at the meeting for a vote to take place. Costley said he only counted 9 members in attendance that day.

"That's why I felt there was some foul play in that situation," he said. "I'm very disgusted with working with the board at this point."

Hilltop, Howard University, news, Washington D.C.