27 Oct 2017

Student mag Craccum is at risk of losing $25k

10:24 am on 27 October 2017

What's happening at Craccum?

Auckland student mag Craccum could lose $25,000 under a referendum held by the Auckland University Students' Association.

In the referendum, union members are being asked whether the magazine's section editors should continue to be paid, as they have been since the start of the year.

The magazine's former editor suspects some members of the union's executive are behind the proposal to slash funding with the intention of using the cash to back pay themselves. 

Former Craccum editor Mark Fullerton said if AUSA executive members were behind the referendum question, it would be a conflict of interest. 

We asked AUSA president Will Matthews if this was the case, however as of publishing he has not responded. 


On Tuesday, 11 "yes" or "no" questions were released for Auckland University Students' Association (AUSA) members to vote on.

The first question in this referendum asks "Should the Craccum magazine section-editors continue to be paid?" There are 14 section editors. 

The second question asks whether "portfolio holders" on AUSA's executive should be paid minimum wage for 10 hours a week's work. 

Portfolio holders are members of the AUSA Executive holding positions including Political Engagement Officer and Culture and Arts Officer. There are 14 portfolio holders. 

The third question asks if payment of portfolio holders should be backdated to the beginning of semester two this year.

This would amount to $157.50 per week for each position. (More if minimum wage increases next year.)

Many acclaimed New Zealand writers and journalists cut their teeth at student magazines - including Sarah Robson, who has worked for AAP in the Press Gallery and currently works for RNZ - The Guardian (and former Wireless reporter) Elle Hunt, The Spinoff's Toby Manhire and NZ Herald's Matt Nippert. (Former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer even had a stint at co-editing Salient in 1963.)

If payments are cut, Craccum would lose "around $25,000," according to an article in the latest issue, meaning section editors (currently 13 of whom are women) in the future would work voluntarily.

This is approximately the amount of money required to back pay AUSA executive portfolio holders, Fullerton said. 

Currently, each section editor earns somewhere between $20 and $70 a week, depending on their position. 

Craccum's editors Samantha Gianotti and Catriona Britton told The Wireless this was far below minimum wage in light of the hours put in.

The submission of the question to AUSA's referendum follows two issues of a satirical newsletter titled Craccum Sucks being distributed on campus. 

AUSA President Will Matthews said he did not think the submission of the question was related to Craccum Sucks, but that the newsletter was just "poking some fun at Craccum".

In the magazine's latest issue, news editor Eloise Sims and Gianotti wrote:

"It is understood that the query as to whether Craccum's new section editors should be stripped of pay in 2018 has been raised in the online referenda after Craccum had to fight for their resource pay in an April AUSA Executive meeting, after their budget was significantly cut as the Executive looked for areas to find funding for portfolio-holders' pay."

Britton and Gianotti told The Wireless "we suspect it may be either a member of the AUSA Executive [who submitted the question], or perhaps someone acting at their behest.

"We know there has been disagreement among the Executive about the payment of section editors, and we understand that some Executive members feel very strongly about this issue".

Fullerton also said he believed the question had come from within AUSA's executive. 

"It has to be someone on the AUSA executive, because outside the AUSA executive, no one would know that Craccum pay happens," he told 95bFM

"We fought so hard last year to get this pay ... It's minimal as it is, and to take it away is a slap in the face to the amount of work that goes into the magazine."

Craccum visual arts editor Isobel Gledhill, who has held positions on AUSA's executive in the past, told 95bFM: "They also work really hard, and it would be cool if everyone could be paid, I have no problem with that... The way that they're going about it is just a bit weird and dodgy."

She said she wouldn't have been able to justify the amount of time she spent working at Craccum if it was unpaid. "I would have had to go and find another job."

Sarah Robson was editor of Victoria University student magazine Salient in 2010 and her job was a full-time paid one; "There was a catch to that, the job paid for 40 hours of work a week but realistically it was a 70 hour per week job".

Robson said that when she was at Salient, the magazine paid its editor, sub-editor, designer and some feature writers.

"You don't get into student journalism for the money, you get into it for the experience.

"But for student magazines to have all the qualities that a good magazine has - looking in depth at interesting stories and acting as a watchdog on the student union - you cannot rely only on volunteer work".

Other questions to arise in the referendum include "Should AUSA disaffiliate the Pro-Life Auckland Club?" and "Should AUSA only allow club disaffiliation to be based on either misconduct or violation of the AUSA Constitution?".

This follows a question in AUSA's last online referendum about disaffiliation with Auckland's Pro-Life Club being deemed unconstitutional.

The issue of campus vegan-only microwaves has also reared its head this referendum cycle.

Voting closes at 4pm today.