Cutting print editions of college newspapers disservice to campus

By Gabrielle Rosas

Research conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2010 showed that the print newspaper is slowly becoming a nostalgic item. Approximately half of U.S. citizens get their news online, preferring the mobility and accessibility of an iPad or laptop. In fact, 44 percent of people who took the survey said they get most of their news from the Web or on a mobile device. The future of the mainstream media lies in the post-digital age.

But what about those niche publications that aren’t so easily defined? What about, say, the college newspaper? Despite popular belief, college communities prefer their newspaper’s print version to the online version. It might seem strange, but the facts speak volumes about what exactly motivates students and faculty to read a print newspaper rather than its digital counterpart.

If colleges want to improve their campus newspapers, they should embrace a multimedia approach that incorporates both a website and a print version. Excluding print newspapers from campuses would be a great disservice to students and faculty. It’s a joke among student journalists that nobody bothers to read their articles except faculty. But approximately 76 percent of all college students have read the campus newspaper in the last month, according to a new report from Alloy Media + Marketing. In the last two months, that number rose to 82 percent. Each student who reads the paper passes it along 3.2 times on average. But why is it so popular?

Student newspapers offer several benefits that websites simply can’t. For example, almost 60 percent of students pick up the campus newspaper from an on-campus rack. Passing it from one peer to another helps foster an active and unified campus community.  It is also convenient for students rushing to class, and it’s easier to glance at during classes.

Many students discuss campus news in the paper and these publications often spark debates. College newspapers also offer coupons and display special interest ads that  many students respond to. More than 78 percent of students use coupons and roughly 80 percent react to ads in some form. And I don’t know about anyone else, but after spending all day on the computer, it’s a nice respite to read from paper. Not only that, but students who read news from the print edition of a publication, as opposed to the online version, were able to better retain more information about the articles they read, according to an Arizona State University study.

Although it isn’t clear why print news is easier to recall than online, the study says it might have something to do with the fleeting nature of online news. And let’s face it, most college students are too worried about final exams and end-of-semester parties to remember what crazy verkakte North Korea is threatening to do to us. But the newspaper could really help them get in touch with the world and their campus.

The college newspaper is the main source of campus news for both faculty and students. Almost 90 percent of students said the college newspaper is their main source for campus news and only 18 percent of students read the online version. The majority of faculty read the paper and usually page through the entire issue. According to Student Monitor, a New Jersey company that surveys college students about their reading habits, 56 percent of students didn’t know that their college newspaper had a website.

So what is the benefit of cutting the print version from a college’s newspaper? I’m thinking nada, zilch, zero. Nothing. Anyone unable to see that must not be listening. Especially when the numbers speak for themselves.