In Stav Hall at breakfast time, it is very common to see many students with a newspaper clutched in their hand, eagerly scanning the stories as they munch on waffles and eggs. Students start off their day by taking some time to themselves and catching up on the news of the day. So when the Student Government Association (SGA) sent out an email that stated they were considering canceling the Collegiate Readership Program, which provides physical copies of The New York Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune and USA Today to students, I was initially shocked. The $28,000 investment to this newspaper delivery program would instead fund student organizations like the Sexual Assault Resource Network, St. Olaf EMT and The Greater Than Campaign.
There is something to be said about having a fresh, crisp paper to hold in your hands and read. And certainly, reading a physical copy of the paper allows you to skim through a variety of different articles – perhaps articles that you would not normally see online. But, if money is limited, then SGA may be right in saying that the money is better spent going towards student organizations on campus. It is so important that groups like The Greater Than Campaign, the St. Olaf EMTs and the Sexual Assault Resource Network are receiving enough funding to provide St. Olaf students with the best access to health and medical care.
The “termination” of the Collegiate Readership Program at St. Olaf could also be a reflection of the world’s changing times. Nowadays, most people have access to news online. As new technology like the internet and smartphones have taken over, newspaper companies have adjusted by providing online subscriptions to people. Why go outside to retrieve your morning paper when you have access to news on your phone? Through Apple News and newspaper apps it is easy for people to get regular updates about what is going on in the world on their phones and computers. It is my belief that students who are avid lovers of reading the news will not be phased by SGA’s decision to stop the newspaper delivery program as they already have news apps on their phones. However, what about students who do not read the news daily, but only once in a while, when they have time to pick up a physical copy of a paper like The New York Times?
It is important that St. Olaf still gives students access to news resources, and as the email from SGA Chief Financial Officer Justice Nwigwe states, “Students and faculty will still have access to various onlines news sources in the St. Olaf Library Catalog and Internet Services.” After doing some digging, I found out that the library provides students with a digital subscription access to the New York Times and students need to register using their St. Olaf credentials when they first access the site. Although the New York Times is the only digital subscription that is available to students, articles from the Star Tribune and other papers are available through the U.S. Newstream database.
If the Collegiate Readership Program at St. Olaf is stopped, it is great to know that students have access to a digital subscription of a reputable news source like the New York Times. Students must also take advantage of free news sources that can be downloaded as apps on their phones and found online. For example, online news sites like Politico, NPR, BBC and the Huffington Post are all free and can provide students with their daily dosage of news.
For people who really want to fight to have physical copies of newspapers stay on campus, perhaps the St. Olaf alumni association can reach out to donors to pay for the newspaper delivery program. But, due to changing times, and with people getting more access to news on their phones, not having access to hard copy papers may not be hugely impactful to the majority of students.
Laras Kettner ’21 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Falls Church, Va. She majors in nursing.