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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

MSA, Missourian discuss temporary relief to paywall

MSA and the Missourian discussed the possibility of expanding access on campus computers.

Feb. 27, 2014

Even after former Missouri Students Association President Nick Droege set a deadline for discussion with the Columbia Missourian in December, MSA and the Missourian have not found a permanent alternative to the publication’s online paywall.

As MSA Director of Student Communications Gunnar Johanson continues the negotiations, MSA and the Missourian will work to introduce short-term relief to allow students to access the online content.

To do this, Johanson is looking at options to make the Missourian’s online content more accessible across campus.

“I encouraged (the Missourian) to contact the Unions, (the Division of Information Technology) and the library to see if the computers you can check out at the Student Center and Memorial Union and the desktops at Ellis Library can have access (to the Missourian),” Johanson said. “That’s our top priority and a solution that I thought was very reasonable.”

MSA President Mason Schara said another option he hopes the Missourian will pursue is “getting access on different routers” so students connected to MizzouWireless can access online Missourian content.

As of now, potential employers cannot easily access Missourian articles when assessing a former Missourian student’s published work.

Currently, the Missourian is addressing the problem by offering one-day online passes to potential employers who request for access.

“This is a policy that is not well-known, which is hopefully something that we are going to work on,” Johanson said. “This isn’t our main concern right now because the other solutions will reach more students, but if students came to us and said they need this right now, we’ll move it up the priority list.”

Johanson’s long-term goal is to encourage the Missourian to reevaluate its online business model and develop a more “student-friendly” paywall.

“The paywall, right now, isn’t student friendly,” Johanson said. “When their (Mizzou Readership Program) contract comes up for renewal, I’m going to urge them to implement a more student-friendly paywall. I think next semester is a reasonable goal to have when we say we want a new online pay model.”

Johanson said he is looking at other newspapers in the readership program for an alternate paywall system.

The New York Times, for an example, allows any reader to access a certain number of articles each month free of charge before limiting access. MU students can also use their PawPrint to register for a free account at The New York Times’ website.

Droege had pursued such options but was unsuccessful due to the technology costs that would be required of the Missourian to implement the policy, Johanson said.

“It would have cost them a lot of money to implement that sort of policy, and it is not a feasible option for them,” he said.

Schara said it is important for both parties to take into account how each side might be affected by the paywall.

“We are going to be communicating more, discussing the pros and cons, and figuring out what is best for both worlds,” Schara said. “I think that’s where the fault was in the last term’s handling of it; they were coming at it from a one-sided perspective, and in this situation, you can’t come at it with a one-sided perspective.”

Though he was not present at the late January meeting with Missourian General Manager Dan Potter, Schara expressed his confidence in Johanson’s ability to act as a liaison and “rebuild the relationship.”

Johanson added that Droege’s approach is not one he will continue.

“There was a lot of miscommunication between (Droege) and the Missourian at the time,” he said. “Nick got really fed up because he saw them as stalling, and they were a little threatened by Nick and were put on a spot. But now, I think we are in a really good spot.”

Director of Student Life Director Mark Lucas said despite how Droege’s communication might have been perceived by the Missourian, Droege’s goal was to do whatever he believed was best for students.

“Dan felt the urgency expressed by Nick on behalf of MU students — that’s all that matters,” Lucas said. “How it was conveyed is for Nick to judge himself as to whether that was the best strategy or not. But in the end, students are getting what they have asked and that’s all I care about, and I think that’s all that Nick cared about.”

Droege declined to comment.

Despite his desire to pursue a different approach, Johanson has not completely ruled out the possibility of removing the Missourian from the Readership Program.

“I really don’t want to cut them from the readership program, but if they don’t change their pay model, we’re going to have new talks with Dr. Mark Lucas,” Johanson said. “(Droege) made all of these threats back in the day, but ultimately, it’s Dr. Mark’s decision.”

Lucas said that although he will consider MSA’s advisement, he will only remove the Missourian from the program as a last resort.

“If the Missourian chose not to, or was not able to accommodate what students asked of them, I think Gunnar (Johanson) would be recommending that we remove them from the readership program,” Lucas said. “And I would probably do it, and I have told Dan (Potter) that.”

Potter was unavailable for comment.

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