Berkeley Rep Raises $6,000 to Help Struggling Student Newspaper

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday October 16, 2008 - 10:32:00 PM

The Berkeley Rep announced Thursday that it had raised $6,000 at the world premiere of Yellowjackets to help the Berkeley High School student newspaper The Jacket stay afloat. 

The Planet reported in August that the Jacket, an award-winning bi-weekly non-profit independent paper which has about 50 student editors, reporters, photographers, and business staff members, was in danger of folding next year due to rising print and mailing costs and a bleak economic scenario. 

Stephanie Ratcliff, the Jacket’s business manager, said the article had helped to inform the community about the Jacket’s problem, following which Berkeley residents and local businesses had stepped up to help the ailing paper. 

“I definitely want to thank the Berkeley Daily Planet,” Ratcliff said over a telephone interview. “The article helped to put the Yellowjackets in touch with our situation. We also got a lot of wonderful response from the community.” 

The Jacket, Ratcliff said, had raised $20,000 on its own over the last few months by raising subscription fees and advertising. 

During her interview with the Planet in August, Ratcliff had said that printing expenses for the paper could run up to $12,000 and $16,000 every year—with individual issues costing between $800 to $1,000 to print—and that Jacket staff were hoping to raise between $8,000 and $10,000 through community outreach. 

“It’s really wonderful that we have $6,000 from the Rep,” she said. “We have enough money for this year already but we won’t have to worry about our future generations. There won’t be a need to scramble for resources.” 

The paper, which typically prints 2,600 copies for every issue, around 200 of which are distributed to subscribers and the rest free-of-cost to students, also reported a drop in advertising and subscriptions, according to former staff members. 

Ratcliff said that the paper had raised annual subscription rates from $70 to $80. The subscription price for one semester is $55 and sponsors pay $225. 

“A lot of people are actually paying the full subscription fee now instead of just making a donation,” Ratcliff said. “We are comfortable now but still worried about the future.” 

Susan Medak, managing director of Berkeley Rep, said that she had read a news report about the Jacket’s financial problems during a Yellowjackets rehearsal which initiated an effort to save the paper. 

“We have a special interest in all things Berkeley but a particular interest in the Jacket because the play Yellowjackets highlighted the value of a student newspaper,” she said. “We are blessed in Berkeley to have an unusual student newspaper. We [the Berkeley Rep] are about words and we want to see good journalism continue in this community and other communities. We think it’s important to encourage young journalists. There are times when we have the opportunity to be a bull pulpit and this was one of those times when we had an opportunity to help another non-profit.” 

Medak said the Rep raised the money through old-fashioned civic engagement: by asking their patrons to donate money in a coffee can on their way out of the theater.  

“People have responded with tremendous generosity,” she said. “They've already contributed $6,150—enough to keep the paper alive for at least another year—and there are still five shows left in the show's run." 

Written by Berkeley native Itamar Moses, the play Yellowjackets takes a look at racial tensions which surface at Berkeley High—Moses’ alma mater—when the school paper publishes an insensitive story which leaves students and teachers perplexed. 

Moses, 31, reported for the Jacket as a teenager and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. 

The cast of Yellowjackets will present a check to the Jacket’s staff during a special ceremony after their final performance Sunday. 

Yellowjackets is now playing at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison Street at Shattuck Ave. through Oct. 19. 

To contact the Jacket, email faculty advisor Matt Carton at mcarton@berkeley.k12.ca.us