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November 19, 2010

Newspaper program ends, but may return

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Hot before, but since Monday free national newspapers are not off the presses.

The four-week trial period of the Collegiate Readership Program (CRP) ended last Friday. From October 18 to November 12, free copies of the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and The New York Times were available on six racks located across campus.

The CRP and Student Government (SG) are crunching survey numbers to determine whether continuing the program would be a worthwhile investment from the perspectives of the program and of the student body.

SG posted a survey on its website asking participants for the approximate number of papers they had taken during the trial and whether they would be willing to pay $5 or $10 a year to help subsidize the program. Individual weekday subscriptions to the newspapers offered are in the range of $30–$100 for 30 weeks, although exact price comparisons aren’t possible because not every paper offers weekday-only subscriptions.

Though the CRP conducted a survey on the last day of the trial period, they have yet to release any analysis. SG president and fourth-year Greg Nance said the initial response to a survey request posted on the SG website has been positive.

Six hundred copies of The New York Times and 300 each of the Chicago Tribune and USA Today were made available each weekday. Of the three, The New York Times was by far the most popular among students, achieving 100-percent “consumption” each day, Nance said. Around 75 percent of the two other publications were taken each day.

“About 75 students have replied to our survey request and the vast majority indicated they would be willing to pay $5-10 over the course of the year for newspaper access,” Nance said in an e-mail.

The results of the CRP poll will be made available at a Tuesday meeting between representatives of SG and CRP, where they will discuss whether the pilot program was popular enough to warrant its long-term implementation, and how it could be funded in the long run—possibly by adding a newspaper fee to the student activities fee.

Nance was optimistic about the program’s long-term viability. “SG has been impressed with the response to the Collegiate Readership Program,” he said. “I can say that student opinion has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Present on around 500 college campuses in the U.S., the CRP is run by USA Today–owner Gannett Publishing, often in conjunction with other local and regional publications, as a means of “promoting civic literacy and global awareness on campus through daily exposure to the news,” according to the program’s website.

Members of SG met with USA Today in the spring of last year to discuss bringing the program to the University.

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