Journalists, editors, photographers, and students who work at “Diálogo,” the University of Puerto Rico’s official news outlet blasted the decision announced by UPR Interim President, Darrel Hillman, to push for “a new organization model” for the publication.
The university’s action comes after a proposed massive budget cut to the newspaper, “Diálogo” representatives said.
In an extraordinary editorial meeting, the group rejected an alleged cut of more than 60 percent of the newspaper’s operational budget and a proposed new organizational model that would place the outlet under the Communications programs in various of the university’s campuses.
“We are dismayed. It is very unfortunate that the administrators of our University turn down a project that has served this institution well for more than three decades,” said “Diálogo’s” General Editor, Odalys Rivera.
“It is of great concern that the university administration takes so lightly and very poorly the evaluation of the budget of a project such as ‘Diálogo,’ said Víctor Rodríguez-Velázquez, interim director of Diálogo, who reported that after last year’s cut the budget allocated for the current fiscal year was $282,248.
“Last year, the news outlet had already received a 28 percent budget cut, which forced a leaner operation. Reducing the budget further would only lead to closing the newspaper,” he said.
The editorial team’s expressions responded to a complaint made Wednesday by UPR Board members in which they alerted that the university’s administration only considers allocating funds to cover the payroll for Diálogo’s regular employees; leaving the operational costs without a budget.
In turn, this would cause the professional practice workshop to shut down.
In this new model, which was not consulted with any member of Diálogo, Hillman said the newspaper “will be assigned to the campuses that offer studies in Communications; this new model will directly benefit students and professors of these programs, which will result in savings for the institution.”
Likewise, the “Diálogo” team called on the members of the Governing Board and its president, Walter Alomar, to take into consideration that approving a budget for the UPR with a broad cut to “Diálogo” would mean compromising transparency and democracy in the public institution.
“At a time where the institution’s administration has lacked transparency — an argument that has been voiced by students, the college community and even the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board — to close ‘Diálogo,’ the only outlet students have to channel their concerns, would mean to deepen those information gaps necessary for proper decision-making,” said Emmanuel Estrada-López, student, and journalist.
“More importantly, open discussions and proper decision-making are basic ingredients for a society that claims to be democratic,” he added.