NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Editors were tapping on keyboards inside The Daily Targum's newsroom on Neilson Street Tuesday night, stopping only to wander over to a table at the front of the room and grab a slice of the pizza that had just arrived.
There was a hint of garlic in the air, but no hint they were ready to write the paper's obituary.
The managing editor of the independent student-run newspaper that has been serving Rutgers since 1869 said Tuesday night the atmosphere inside the newsroom remains positive despite the fact that the newspaper learned on Monday night that it has lost most of its funding.
"There is a lot of hope," said Priyanka Bansal, managing editor of The Daily Targum. "We are very optimistic right now. It is changing hour by hour, but there is a lot of optimism because this referendum, even though we did fail, it's a good chance for us to restructure, reshape our plane, reshape our business in general. Everything is going up from here. In our point of view, this is not the worst thing. It is not the end of The Targum."
Although The Daily Targum generates revenue through ads and support from alumni, it is mainly funded by students whose tuition included a refundable $11.25 fee. Not enough students voted to continue the student fee during a recent campus referendum. Students are asked every three years to reaffirm their support.
At least 25 percent of the student body must support the fee for Rutgers to keep charging students to support the newspaper.
Of the 23,996 eligible voters, only about 6,500 participated, or only 27 percent of the student body voted on the referendum. Of those, who cast a ballot, 4,400 voted in favor of the referendum. So even though 67 percent of those students who voted approved the referendum, it turns out to be only 18 percent of the entire student body.
Jordan Levy, the features editor at The Daily Targum, said the staff was disappointed when they were informed of the results last week, but "there also has been a lot of positive feedback after we announced it. It's definitely important and definitely appreciated in a lot of ways."
The Daily Targum has been independently student-written and student-run since 1980. This semester, the student reporters, columnists, editors and photographers have kept the Rutgers community abreast of such pressing stories as the full-time faculty's negotiations for a new contract after the last one expired July 1, 2018.
Bansal said talks continue about the future of the paper.
"This is all very new to us, still," she said. "We just got the results last week and we're still figuring out a budget, our plans, our numbers. We're still crunching everything. We don't have any idea yet. The thing we know for sure is we're going to continue serving the Rutgers community, whether that's online or in print - maybe not every day, maybe weekly. We don't know yet."
One lifeline could come from the university.
According to a statement provided to TAPinto New Brunswick, the school is in the process of reaching out to the paper's administration.
"Rutgers-New Brunswick values a free press as an important voice in the university community and is disheartened to learn of the referendum results," according to the release. "Student Affairs staff is contacting the Targum’s student leadership to learn how the university can support their next steps to ensure the news outlet remains a relevant part of the Rutgers experience."