Daily paper delivery falls to budget cuts

After a decade of supplying free newspapers to students, newsstands at residence halls across campus will remain empty this year.

The University ended its Collegiate Readership Program – which provided daily deliveries of The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today – in late August.

Heidi Zimmerman, the director of communications for USA Today, which manages the program, said GW ended the program because of budget cuts. Daily deliveries of the three newspapers cost $52,000 per year.

Dean of Students Peter Konwerski said the decision to cut the program was based on decreased interest in the program, as well as increased online activity.

“Our ability to access news is so ubiquitous today. There are many ways for students to access the content in other ways,” Konwerski said. He added that students have access to every newspaper in the country online through the University’s free reference library.

Students can use the electronic database Lexis Nexis to access 3,400 newspapers worldwide.

“Budgetary concerns were one factor in the decision to eliminate this program, however, the primary reason was the trend – both among GW students and nationally – to obtain news instantly through technology,” Konwerski said.

Konwerski said he and Senior Vice President Robert Chernak reached out to student leadership in groups such as the Student Association and the Residence Hall Association, both of which supported the decision.

The reading program has been imperiled by budget concerns in the past. Deliveries were briefly cut in 2007 and 2008, but student demand brought back the program both times.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg created the program in the fall of 2000. When it was nearly cut in 2004, a student petition kept the program alive. In 2007 and 2008, Trachtenberg wrestled with the decision to maintain or slash the program after observing a lull in student participation. After a double termination, the University ultimately revived the program in March 2008.

“To our astonishment, the termination of free newspapers was greeted by an outcry,” Trachtenberg wrote in a 2008 blog post for the Chronicle of Higher Education describing student responses to the cut. “In the larger scheme of the University budget, this line item seemed a worthwhile investment if it achieved its goal, so after a brief hiatus we restored the free newspapers.”

Albert May, a professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs who requires students to bring a newspaper to class several times a semester, said he doesn’t know how many students are reading print newspapers now, given the accessibility of online content.

“It is just one more example of our transition from old media delivery systems to the digital age,” May said. “I actually believe the dead-tree media are going to last longer than many think, but clearly we’re in a period of transition.”

Hatchet staff writer Samantha Stone contributed to this report.

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