The State of CUP An annual address delivered by CUP's chairperson at mid-week plenary

Written and delivered by CUP 76 chairperson Adam Thomas Young on Jan. 10, 2014. 

The situation with Campus Plus falling apart has left us, and particularly the President, in a mess of irretrievable records, bankruptcy procedure to end the company, and on top of things, having all of us, as papers, file claims to retrieve money.

This has not been easy, but like a phoenix, perhaps CUP is coming out of this with the new agreement with FREE, which was determined to be a good alternative. This three-year agreement guarantees our organization some stable revenue and support, as well as our members a good option for picking up national advertising. As we transition out of the slow-moving bankruptcy of Campus Plus, things are being cleared up, and hopefully claims will be reconciled over the next few months.

If anything the C Plus debacle reminds us that the Board should be there to not only react, but be proactive. If we thought we were in the thick of it last year, we’re still far from “all-clear”.

Roughly $15,000 of expected income in membership fees has not come in due to members leaving. At this point this year we have lost roughly 10 members, both big and small papers. As a cooperative we have a reliance on membership fees, and when revenue essentially disappears, our budget faces the axe.

For the board this comes to us in interesting ways. As we are paid a stipend and transportation to our three in-person board meetings (NASH is one of them), cuts also infringed on our ability to meet at November, where a lot of plenary planning takes place. Having this solid start would have been useful this year. But alas, it didn’t happen. Yet while we haven’t met all together since summer school, there is strength in our working together to resolve issues, where we are better at stating our opinions at the appropriate time, finding consensus, and keeping the best interest of our regions, and the organization in mind. Maybe the muting and un-muting process of microphones on Skype has helped with our patience?!

At the same time we have gained five members. So just as something doesn’t seem to be working, other things are coming along just fine. The National Office has been working hard to bring in new partnerships that are attractive to our members, including MarketWired, Virtual Paper, and ScribbleLive. In interest of transparency and increasing communication, more files are available online for our member’s perusal, via cup.ca /governance. Also, we have a recently hired communications manager, whose interactive job includes CUPdates online, bridging the gap between membership and national office.

We also, after many years and a great deal of discussion (though perhaps less long than the Maple Leaf flag debate) have a new logo that reflects a more modern organization. We hope you like it.

We also are now incorporated under the new Not For Profit Corporations Act. Upgrading from the organization’s initial application in ’69? ’71? (They had things sealed with hot wax then or something), changes to comply with this were approved last meeting by membership. The Act is intended to give members more say in their own organization, and also leave some of the bureaucracy to the sidelines. While historically we have had to pass an emergency budget at Mid-Week Plenary right now, we neither need to pass that budget, or a final one on Sunday, according to the Act.

For a board of six regional representatives, a continuity rep and the President and NBC, we have faced some very interesting questions that remind us of the multitude of perspectives and values that people have surrounding CUP. Some services are seen as useless to some members, and essential for others. The question we continually face, -especially as money is tight- is finding balance. Would we be true to the roots of this organization to move to a pay for services model where “members” could pay for what they need, or do we embrace the idea of working together in the traditional spirit of a cooperative, even if that means supporting the smallest so their voices can also be heard?

How much percentage of your paper’s operating budget should go to this organization? To not only providing services like the bureau chiefs, editors, and the Wire, but also to regional subsidies, to NASH coordinators, or to provide the national office with the ability to actively pursue partnerships and benefits to you? What would we lose in the loss of revenue by cuts, and what could we gain by being inclusive of more members to join if fees were reduced?

The numbers and digits? They’re all up to you. This year we’re waking up and providing the time for CUP to catch up with a growing wish for change in fee restructuring. This issue was supposed to be brought up in NASH 74, and while I can’t account for what happened to it on the agenda last year, it’s back. The board has looked over some different proposals and now it’s your turn. The board is tasked to work with the budget we are given, and you as membership will decide that.

Ideas for new services? Bring them forward. We’ve watched and took action on issues that seem important. We’ve debated the merits of bringing in an executive director that would change the structure of the CUP office, having someone as an administrator that would move the President to become the Chair of the Board and work on other matters. All of these things, from HR issues, to concerns raised by papers, come through us, and we listen to it.

I’m not here to give you all of the answers, perhaps mainly because so much goes on within a year. What you should know however is that we need our members to stay involved and engaged in matters of this organization, or we won’t last for long. We need a stronger mandate from our members as to what they want this organization to be. We’ve worked hard to expand and explore other opportunities. What should CUP stand for? Where is our place within the industry of journalists, and for the campuses we cover? As we look to the future of this organization, these are issues that together we will need to discuss, share, and come to an agreement as we shape our identity for the years to come.