Disappearance of local, national newspapers disservice to students
No more are the days of scrambling to H.L. Griffin Hall at 8 a.m. to nab the latest New York Times on campus; The Student Government Association’s Collegiate Readership Program has gone paperless.
The Buzz is a mobile app by USA Today that universities can tailor to their student newspaper and campus-related news. Picked up by schools such as Cornell University, Carnegie Mellon University and Ohio University, more than 49 higher education institutions have their own iteration of the app.
What separates them from us? A lot of these institutions kept the stacks of newspapers on the racks. The University of Utah and Pennsylvania State University, in particular, go so far as to have mapped the locations of newspapers for their students. Our switch to a mobile app was not publicized; the only reason I knew where the papers went was because I work in Student Publications. One look at the College Readership Program website insinuates that we still have print editions lying around the Student Union or the cafeteria.
The change is supposedly a more cost-effective way of bringing University of Louisiana at Lafayette students more up-to-date information about their university and current events. I, however, wonder how many students were aware of the shift to digital before it happened.
I’ve had the Buzz on my phone since it came out, and to some degree, it’s great to see The Vermillion’s (spelled incorrectly on the app) content on the app. But I believe by supplying the students with watered-down updates without offering the paper edition as backup, the SGA has robbed students of the opportunity to learn how to read the paper, get in the habit of picking up newspapers and read local residents’ opinion pieces.
What does the CRP have to offer students who do not have a smartphone? How does this app decide what to show students? And why are university press releases being paraded as news articles? The difference between the “news” section of the university website and The Vermilion’s news section is that we are not biased. There is a lack of transparency in this change — one that I have to question whether it was for the betterment of the program or to save a penny of the $7.50 SGA fee that funds the readership program.
I understand that TOPS is in retrograde and our public universities are in a time of crisis. However, the last time I checked, there were no cuts made to effective communication to the student body.
Additionally, it would be remiss to deny that journalism is evolving: Many papers around the U.S. have folded or gone online-only in the last few years. The Pew Research Center reported that weekday circulation fell 7 percent in 2015, which was the greatest decline since 2010. However, print circulation still makes up about 78 percent of weekday circulation.
I’m a huge fan of the growing field of digital journalism. I spent my first evening at the Excellence in Journalism convention fawning over the Google Cardboard set I received from a breakout session in 360-degree video and virtual reality journalism. However, these tools — as well as splicing in videos, tweets and sound snippets — merely augment the time and effort put into print stories.
And when you take away the broadest vehicle to socialization, education and information from the students who are paying for the program, you are selling students short. I implore SGA senators to reassess last year’s decision, and University of Louisiana at Lafayette students to email their college’s senators or email@example.com.