By: Jennifer Saba
It’s been seven years since colleges and universities began pushing newspaper readership, and now the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) just issued a white paper on its effectiveness. About 15 million daily papers are distributed annually on 240 campuses nationwide through the College Newspaper Readership Program.
“The kids love it,” says the John Murray, vice president of circulation at the NAA. “Anybody who tells you kids won’t read is wrong.”
The project’s goal is to make daily local and national papers easily accessible to students. Universities pay for the newspapers, mostly discounted at a 25% subscription price, through student fees. The papers are then dispersed throughout dorms, student centers, and other high-traffic areas.
Penn State University, where the program was born, has has much success distributing The New York Times, USA Today and the Centre Daily Times. By 2002, some 13,200 students were picking up various papers. “More than half of the students surveyed that year said they used newspapers more than any other medium, including television and the Internet,” the study found.
But not all campuses welcome daily newspapers with open arms. The University of Texas at Austin, a school with roughly 50,000 students, views the Austin American-Statesman as a threat to the school-produced Daily Texan. “For the long term, it’s a little burr in the sides of some college newspapers,” said Kathy Lawrence, director of student publications at the University of Texas.
Lawrence acknowledged that the Texan is a non-profit paper that receives no subsidies from the university. She also thinks its unfair that the university should push the Statesman through student fees and not do the same for its homegrown paper (though Lawrence did admit that about two cents of each student’s fees goes towards the Texan). Plus, the Statesman has a very sophisticated marketing and advertising program, compared to the mostly student-run paper. The Texan could loose advertising dollars.
Still, Lawrence says the program is a good one, just not for all campuses. “We really considered the commercial and professional newspaper community our friends,” she said. “We hope and believe that we’re training their future staffs.”