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Slope Media Group Approved for Byline Funding

The story of Slope Media Group’s rise to Cornell prominence is the dream of any budding entrepreneur. In just five years, Slope Media rose from “Pregame Radio” in a dorm room in a West Campus fraternity house to “Cornell’s Student Media Powerhouse” with a Radio, TV, and Magazine division headquartered in Willard Straight Hall at the heart of campus. Jeff Brookman ’07, Yaw Etse ’08, and Alex Zahn ’07, Slope Media’s three founders, could not have imagined what their small pregame tradition would quickly become. Yesterday evening, Slope’s place on Ithaca’s East Hill was firmly cemented as a major campus organization with the granting of byline funding by the Student Assembly.

Slope Radio, the precursor to Slope Media, arose from “Pregame Radio” to fill what was seen by the founders as a void of an on-campus, 24-hour, 100% student owned-and-operated online radio station. Brookman, Etse, and Zahn positioned their group as different from WVBR-FM, Cornell’s student-owned-and-operated FM not-for-profit commercial radio station, by allowing student DJs to develop their own format and content for their own shows. WVBR-FM is a rock-format FCC-regulated commercial station and is therefore more restrictive in terms of the music and talk programming that can go on the air. While Slope could not offer the same professional training and experience WVBR could, its on-campus location in Appel Commons and wide creative license granted to student DJs made recruiting for the online feed an easy task.

Slope Radio quickly found success. In August of 2006, just after becoming an official student group and receiving university funding, the startup was featured in a “Heard on Campus” article in Businessweek, a handful of Daily Sun articles, and the Cornell Chronicle. During that first year, the founders programmed over 30 original radio shows, a Slope-funded charity event, and helped produce a Barton Hall concert with rock bands The Head Set and Tigercity. By May of 2007, Slope Radio added Slope TV and a music-based magazine, Slope Radio Magazine. The fledgling online radio station was now Slope Media.

At some point in early 2007, the founders proposed a merger with the Cornell Daily Sun to “capture more market share” and for “good growth [opportunities] for both organizations.” Slope’s management even drew up an org chart under which the Director of Slope Media would report jointly to the Sun’s Editor in Chief and the Senior Board. The Cornell Daily Sun passed up the opportunity. In 2007 it was still too early to reliably predict that newspaper content consumption would be slowly moving online.

After the failed merger proposal, in mid-to-late spring 2007, Slope Media created a new expansion plan to move to 410 College Avenue, the current home of Kaplan Test Prep, and create a full-scale television and radio studio. The plan called for:

• A late night show-type studio with 5 different camera angles
• A news studio with 2 different camera angles
• A performance studio with 3 different camera angles
• A radio set (a la the broadcast of ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning) with 2 different camera angles

In terms of content, the founders hoped to be able to recruit 160 students for the 2007-2008 academic year to fill live 2-hour blocks from 12:00pm – 12:00am every day of news, music, sports, entertainment, and specialty programming that would be broadcast over CUtv to the residence halls, gyms, and community centers. All told, Slope Media expected 6,400 listeners/viewers per day, which is approximately half of the entire undergraduate student population. From membership dues, ad sales, department sponsorships, ticket sales, and Student Assembly Finance Commission funding, the founders planned to generate $38,350 in revenue, or $4,850 in profit after expenses. This plan also failed.

Today, the Slope Media Group, as they’ve come to brand themselves, is based out of a small one-room studio/office on the first floor of Willard Straight Hall. Slope Radio is the only content produced and broadcast live, and it is only live in the late afternoon/early evenings Monday through Friday. Slope Television exists as sporadic pre-recorded programming in news, sports, and entertainment. Slope Radio Magazine was re-launched last year as The Zine and focuses on Cornell culture.

Although Slope’s drive and ambition may have slowed in recent years, and it is no longer the energetic startup it once was, Slope Media yesterday secured its place as a major campus organization with the Student Assembly’s granting of byline funding. Slope was allocated $1.25 per student out of the total $216 per student Activity Fee. This is approximately the same amount received by Alternative Breaks, Minds Matter, and Outdoor Odyssey. With about 13,500 undergraduate students, this means that Slope will receive about $17,000 in funding. The Student Assembly Appropriates Committee approved Slope Media Group’s application for eligibility for byline funding with a 13-0-0 vote in August, citing the “aspiration of Slope Media to become more involved with student organizations at Cornell,” “the educational aspect of the organization,” and “an unmet demand for media experience and programming on campus.”

Whereas the Slope Media Group was granted byline funding by a landslide vote, not all students felt it appropriate to allocate such a large sum of money to the organization. At last night’s meeting, concerned students addressed the Student Assembly to question Slope’s relevance to the community and plans for superfluous expenditures, such as a salary for a student to redesign their website. A debate about Slope’s byline funding has sprung up as comments to the Daily Sun Article about the funding.

Kyle Scott | Posted on October 21, 2011 (#)

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