By Najib Aminy
Five years after its inception, The Stony Brook Independent, a student-run online-news organization covering Stony Brook University, has finally received funding from the Undergraduate Student Government. This news-organization, which consists of more than 30 members, received roughly $1,500 for a video camera, digital camera and accessories. This is the first time in the organization’s history that it has received funding from any outside party.
“We’ve now grown to the point where we need more cameras,” said Michael Kelly, the Executive Editor of the Independent, “Right now we work off one camera and with the size of the club and going forward we need to have some stuff that belongs to the club so that it is passed down.
The $1,500 grant comes in the form of a special events allocation; the Independent plans to hold a workshop to teach its staff members the usage of camera equipment. Initially, the Independent had applied for a new club budget. Under current USG laws, however, the maximum amount of funding a new club may receive is around $375.
“All they would’ve got was a camera lens, so it wouldn’t make any sense to grant them any money,” said USG Treasurer Moiz Khan. After revising the request, by creating an event and applying for a special events grant, the Independent became eligible for funds that the USG could supply.
While this is the first time the Independent has received funding, an alternative option to seek a USG funded budget is not likely. “We don’t really need a budget,” said Erin McKinley, current news editor. “As long as we have cameras, we’re good to go,” said McKinley, who said it was difficult to share one camera with a large staff.
As for the name, that too is unlikely to change.
“Calling ourselves the Independent was more of an attitude on how we cover the news, in that we’re not a mouthpiece for the administration and we don’t print press releases,” Kelly said. “Getting the money is something we needed to do to go forward.”
Like the Press before it, and Think Magazine after, the Independent was founded by a number of disgruntled staffers from The Stony Brook Statesmen—the self-identified official campus publication of Stony Brook University. The staffers had disliked the direction of the Statesmen and wanted to make a new publication that was open to the entire campus using Web 2.0.
“There was a demand for a publication that would be a continuous source for serious, objective and high quality campus news and information, and one which, through its online presence, would be interactive and in dialogue with the campus community,” said Michael Nevradakis, one of the founding editors of the Independent.
The issue of funding, however, did come up even while Nevradakis was editor, and was an issue debated amongst the site’s founders. “The reality is that running a publication of any kind is expensive. From the beginnings of the Independent, editors and staffers often paid for necessary equipment and expenses, from cameras, to software, to website hosting costs, to travel expenses, out of their own pockets,” Nevradakis said. “In order for the Independent to truly compete on an even playing field with the Press, Statesman and other student media outlets, all of which are USG-funded in whole or in part, it is a “necessary evil” for the Independent to receive funding as well.”
“I think in order to fairly report, we need the equipment that we need and if the university is willing to help us get it and we’re still going to fairly report about the university then I think its ok,” said McKinley over doubts on the name of the Independent.
It should be noted that The Press receives a budget funded through the USG.