November 17, 2000

S.A. Debates Allowing Free Newspaper Pilot

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Representatives from the New York Times, USA Today and the Ithaca Journal met with the Student Assembly (S.A.) yesterday and offered Cornell a business partnership that could make newspapers more available to students.

In an effort to keep students well-informed on current events and to increase the number of future newspaper subscribers, Kevin Cappallo, New York Times national director for education sales, proposed that Cornell launch a four-week trial initiative in spring 2001 as part of a College Newspaper Readership Program.

In the pilot program, University students would have free access to newspapers available at Robert Purcell and Noyes Community Centers. All expenses would be paid for by the newspaper distributors.

“Our goal is to make sure that every student has a paper who wants one,” said Robin Psalzgraf, USA Today regional marketing manager.

Cappallo emphasized that the program is flexible and up to the discretion of the University.

Cornell could choose any three newspapers to participate in the program, but the representatives recommended that Cornell start with their respective newspapers.

Surveys would be conducted both at the beginning and the end of the pilot program to determine its value for the Cornell community.

Then, if the University chooses to initiate the program, it will sign an agreement and assume financial responsibility.

“I like the idea of the pilot program, but the idea of a long-term partnership requires further investigation,” said Kira Moriah ’03, vice president for finance and arts & sciences representative. “I believe that newspaper readership among students is very important, but money is also an issue.”

It is widely believed that the newspaper partnership would require active participation from the S.A. Cappallo said he was told that the University administration would not likely fund the program.

Instead, some of the money to pay for the newspaper services may have to come from student activities fee increases, but Moriah warned of the potential outrage that such a hike may create.

“Adding even a 50 cent increase to the $92 student activity fee creates great opposition,” Moriah said.

According to Cappallo, one semester in the program would cost about $10 to $13 per student. For some student representatives, the University already offers adequate access to news.

Vice President for Public Relations and Undesignated At-large Representative Michael Bronstein ’02 asked, “How do you justify charging each student $10 to $13 when students can get the same info on the internet or by reading newspapers in the library for free?”

Other S.A. members worried about how the greater presence of national and local newspapers to campus would affect the readership of student publications, such as The Sun.

“I’m scared about a newspaper monopoly,” said Leslie Barkemeyer ’03, LGBTQ representative.

Cappallo responded, “Our surveys have indicated that this program will have no impact on college newspapers. On the contrary, it encourages increased newspaper readership by making people more aware.”

Several S.A. members left the meeting suspicious of the newspaper companies’ intentions. The Assembly did not issue a direct response to the proposal but promised to draft a resolution regarding the issue, which will be addressed at the end of the month.

“I find it amazing that their representatives would lie to us about what is best for students,” said Frankie Lind ’01, human ecology representative. “I take it as a ploy by corporate-controlled newspapers to gain subscribers.”

The readership program started at Tufts University in 1995 and gained ascendancy in 1996 with its implementation at Penn State University.

Close to 200 colleges participate in the program nationwide.

At other colleges, Cappallo found that more than half of the students reported that they read less news since entering college. Cappallo emphasized the need for students to make more connections between campus life and the outside world by using newspapers as a tool.

“This is about much more than just newspapers. It really does enhance the educational experience,” Cappallo said.

Archived article by Jennifer Roberts