Dean of Students discontinues free print newspaper program

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Dean of Students discontinues free print newspaper program

Alejandro Monzon

For eight years, students were able to pick up the New York Times and USA Today in common areas such as Rand and Commons free of charge as part of the USA Today Collegiate Readership Program. This year, however, the Dean of Students made the decision to discontinue the program’s presence at Vanderbilt.

Representatives of the program approached Vanderbilt Student Government in 2008 about bringing the service, which delivers one to three newspapers daily to college students, to Vanderbilt. According to a 2008 Nashville Post article, the program would cost Vanderbilt less than $300 daily. By participating, Vanderbilt allowed USA Today to reflect the Vanderbilt population in its readership numbers, raising the cost of advertisements in their papers.

VSG brought the proposition to the Dean of Students, and in spring 2008, they launched a pilot program before making Vanderbilt a full participant in the fall, according to Richard Arrington, Senior Director of Student Programs and Events. However, the field of media has been changing recently with a greater emphasis online, which led to the decision to discontinue the program.

Major news publications are pushing out content daily on the Internet while reducing the use of the conventional print newspaper. There is limited, free content available, usually up to a determined number of articles. After that point, the paper will require a subscription to view more content.

“More and more news is being consumed digitally,” Arrington said. “In fact, USA Today and similar papers are pushing digital subscriptions more than paper.”

The trend toward digital format is not only found in large scale news corporations. The Vanderbilt community can look at the campus paper —The Hustler — and see the same move. This year, The Hustler decided to discontinue the print edition and is now solely available online.

“When The Hustler decided to move away from a print edition, we felt it was a good time to discontinue the paper program as well,” Arrington said.

At the moment, there does not appear to be a program that will replace the free print papers with online subscriptions. However, some student groups have expressed interest in receiving such subscriptions, which Arrington is willing to look into accommodating.

“One of the business student organizations has reached out about getting a subscription to the Wall Street Journal for their meetings and programs,” Arrington said. “That’s certainly something I want to help with as I want to be sure our groups have access to the information they need to be successful.”

However, the program was not without its conflict when it was on campus. Chris Carroll, Director of Student Media, has been a vocal opponent to the readership program over the years.

“The [USA Today Reps] wouldn’t even tell [Student Media] they were coming,” Carroll said. “They didn’t want us to know about the program possibly being on campus.”

According to Carroll, by going through Vanderbilt Student Government and DOS, the representatives were bypassing Student Media at Vanderbilt. The main issue for Carroll was competition for advertisement.

Advertising enabled The Hustler to put out print copies weekly. Because VSG and DOS paid for the bulk subscription to the USA Today program, the newspapers were able to count the Vanderbilt community in its numbers when charging for ads, leading to direct conflict with the Hustler over securing advertisements.

“My job is to advocate for The Hustler,” Carroll said. “If they could pay into the program, why couldn’t they invest in The Hustler?”

While the USA Today Program was still on campus, Vanderbilt decided to contribute financially to The Hustler. The discontinuation of the USA Today Program leaves the spotlight on the campus paper.

“With the program discontinued, the focus can be on Student Media,” Carroll said.

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