The UNF Spinnaker will roll off the presses for the last time March 31.
Spinnaker Business Manager Klajdi Stratoberdha announced to the 18-member staff at the weekly budget meeting March 12 that it would discontinue publishing the 32-year-old newspaper, UNF’s longest running student publication, and cease delivery to more than 15,000 weekly readers.
“This is crap,” Spinnaker Managing Editor Josh Salman said. “It’s not only a sad day for journalism and democracy but for my stomach as well.”
The ad revenue has been consistently dropping due to the sagging economy, and advertisers are less willing to place ads in a student publication, Stratoberdha said.
The Spinnaker’s ad revenue was not able to offset operating expenses, and it has not been supplemented with additional funds from Student Government as promised since the two formed a public-private partnership in 2005.
Since the Spinnaker is no longer serving UNF, the staff members will have to go back to the ranks of couch potatoes and deadbeats, Salman said.
“[The Spinnaker] was important to me,” Editor in Chief Holli Welch said. “Without an office on campus, I am going to have to study and print like a commoner in the Library.”
Triggers of collapse
Initial efforts by the business and advertising department to attract readers and increase ad revenue were unsuccessful, but staff members still hoped something could be done, Welch said.
But when former UNF student media adviser Josh Stewart left in summer 2008, the Spinnaker was left without a professional to counsel it through
a multimedia renovation amid looming economic pressures affecting the newspaper’s budget.
“We were really hoping for the best while trying to prepare for the worst,” Welch said.
But the state of the media industry in general had frightening prospects. Both long-standing and reputable publications, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News recently went under – after operating for 150 years.
In December, the Spinnaker learned a new student media adviser would take the position. This was after the Spinnaker earned the No. 2 spot for Best of Show award at the 2008 Associated Collegiate Press Awards in Kansas City.
“I just got here,” Student Media Adviser John Timpe said. “I fled the newspaper industry because of all the failing papers. What am I going to do now?I have kids to feed.”
After an intensive overhaul and online re-branding, unfspinnaker.com was recently informed it was a finalist for the Online Pacemaker award, the National Scholastic Press Association’s highest honor. The award acknowledges progressive and innovative techniques in coverage, writing and graphics, which set the pace for the industry.
Regardless of awards and notoriety, the Spinnaker’s doors are now shut.
Effects of a nonexistent Spinnaker
One of the prime tenets of journalism is keeping the government accountable and being a watch dog for the public.
“Our first order of business at the next Senate meeting is to double our salary and extend some of our current benefits to stay in place even after graduation,” said Mike Saathoff, student body vice president. “Next, we will be creating several new cabinet positions to hire more of our fraternity brothers. A transportation czar, soil and water commissioner, election rigger and mid-afternoon snack planner are some of the ideas that have been suggested so far.”
Beyond the Spinnaker’s role as a watch dog, the communication department will also suffer from the loss.
“Now that [the school’s] publication is gone, I will have nowhere to dump all of the sub-par stories my students write that won’t make it into credible local publications,” UNF Professor Paula Horvath-Neimeyer said. “It really is a sad day; it’s like our consolation prize for C and below students doesn’t exist anymore.”
How staff members are coping
After the closure announcement, Spinnaker staff members each had to cope in their own way. Assistant News Editor James Cannon II pulled a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2003 Pauillac Bordeaux and sat it on his once ostentatious desk.
“I have been saving this for a special occasion,” Cannon said. “I am jobless, my mortgage is due, I have two alimony checks due in a week and have to pay the government’s confiscatory taxes April 15. What could be a better occasion to drink an $800 bottle of wine?”
Other staffers took a more proactive approach: drinking while updating their resume.
Features Editor Jason Yurgartis was seen chugging Pabst Blue Ribbon and frantically trying to download his Top 5 archives onto his thumb drive to send off to Pitchfork Media to begin a new career as a pretentious adjective abuser.
Jacksonville’s unemployment rate doubled from 4.8 percent in February 2008 to 9.5 percent in March 2009, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. Experts said the Spinnaker’s closure will further compound the already bleak employment numbers in Duval County.
The paper’s closure is expected to add one-thousandth of a percentage point to the county’s unemployment rating.
Furthermore, there are 12 moderately educated former writers from the Spinnaker with no other usable skill sets who are seeking gainful employment.
If any news, trade publication, travel guide, instruction manual or leaflet writing organization is looking for employees with the aforementioned skills, please call the Spinnaker office at 620-2727.
However, all calls need to be placed no later than noon April 3, as our phones will no longer be in service.
Editor’s Note:The Spinnaker staff recognizes the current economic situation and the effects it has on the journalism industry, among many others. This article in no way mocks the hardships of other papers around the nation; rather it is a college newspaper’s attempt to have a little fun. Thanks for the support.