Rutgers Daily Targum launches referendum campaign
On Jan. 30, 2016, The Daily Targum's 148th editorial board was formally voted in after 13 continuous hours of caucus. Two days later, it is launching its referendum campaign to ask the students of Rutgers University to continue putting their trust in the paper.
Every three years, Rutgers students vote whether the $10.75 fee on their term bills will remain to subsidize the Targum during a two-week period called "referendum." For the next 64 days, the paper will strive to prove they should say "yes."
Dan Corey, acting editor-in-chief of the Targum and a Rutgers Business School sophomore, said he welcomed the opportunity to tell students why they should vote for the paper.
“(Referendum) is a good thing for Rutgers students and Targum staff because it reminds us why we’re here,” Corey said. “It tells us to keep our priorities in check.”
The Targum was founded on Jan. 29, 1869, and was subsidized by the University until 1980. In the late 1970s, funding was withheld from the paper due to school officials disagreeing with coverage from the paper.
After a multi-year push, the Targum gained financial independence from Rutgers. While it still depended on fees from student term bills to exist, its members had the editorial freedom to criticize or praise Rutgers as they saw fit.
“Our business model is shaky, it’s not consistent with most other newspapers,” Corey said. “It’s unique because unlike most college newspapers, we’re not funded by the schools and we don’t write specifically for the institution's benefit.”
Past volumes of the Targum have been used as resources to catalogue the school’s history. The details that appear in print today will continue to be used by archivists in the future.
The Targum has traditionally been a part of Rutgers history. It recorded the first college football game in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton University. That same year, it suggested scarlet as the school color.
While most universities focus on their own public relations, its school newspaper is typically supposed to remain neutral. The Targum is no exception to this standard, except it has the ability to actually remain so, Corey said.
The Targum's mission is to report events and parts of Rutgers that show it clearly as its own institution.
In the past, students have accused writers of being biased, of being inaccurate and of misrepresenting their sources. Sometimes these claims are baseless, but sometimes writers have written poorly.
“We combat that by doing a better job internally when training our writers,” Corey said.
Often people have accused the paper of serving their own interests and not the University’s.
Moving forward, the paper will try to incorporate more diverse groups into its pages, Corey said. With between five and seven news articles per day in a school with 30,000 undergraduate students, this will be challenging.
“People (should) realize that writing for the Targum is a thankless job. Journalism in general is a thankless job, and that’s how it should be,” he said. “We’re here to spread news, and the news can be anything.”
Students who join the Targum gain invaluable real-world experience, Corey said. They learn how to write for a newspaper, and for many, this is their first time doing so. This experience includes writing, editing, designing, as well as multimedia production.
Every year, a new editorial board is given the chance to run the paper, and every board has different members.
“The Targum is a revolving door. People come, people go, but the door is never shut,” Corey said.
The Targum could not exist without the Rutgers community, Corey said. Students appear in articles or provide leads, and through that, they allow the paper to serve its function.
Clubs can be featured in a credible publication, which could not happen with many other news organizations. Because it serves Rutgers and only Rutgers, the paper can recognize more local groups than any other printed service, he said.
Students can see themselves in the Targum and bring the paper home to their families and friends, Corey said.
By the same token, any student who wants to join the Targum can, whether they want to write, take pictures, design graphics or make videos. Every member of the editorial staff is a student, and without them, the paper would not be able to operate.
“We’re not an aloof, elitist organization, and we don’t want to remain mysterious,” Corey said. “We’re students, we’re writers and designers, editors and photographers, and we all come from Rutgers.”
Nikhilesh De is a School of Engineering junior. He is the acting news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.