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Newspaper readership thrives

Mandi Stirone | Thursday, January 25, 2007

Newspaper readership programs implemented last year at Notre Dame and three years ago at Saint Mary’s have proved successful – even gaining momentum over time – say student government representatives and students.

Through the College Readership Program, copies of national newspapers are made available for free on both campuses every weekday. Students, faculty and staff can peruse The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today – and, at Saint Mary’s, the South Bend Tribune as well.

Notre Dame student body president Lizzi Shappell said she considers the program a complete success, hearing nothing but positive feedback since its August start.

Notre Dame’s fledgling program has a consumption rate of about 90 percent, she said.

In fact, it has been so popular while coming in under-budget that a sixth newspaper distribution center was added, making daily papers available in Hesburgh Library, South and North Dining Halls, LaFortune and a location for off-campus students in C lot.

Senior Chris Harris, coordinator of the Readership Program at Notre Dame, agreed with Shappell’s analysis.

“I haven’t heard one bad thing about it from anyone taking part in the program,” Harris said.

He said he has received no complaints about the program from the student body, and noted that the 90 percent consumption rate is only an average.

He added that students have even been stepping up and recycling.

“I think the students realize they have a civic duty to recycle, and if they don’t, USA Today takes recycled papers collected at the end of the day anyway,” he said.

Saint Mary’s is also seeing similar levels of success with its College Readership Program, which began during the 2003-04 school year. Unlike with Notre Dame’s program, students must swipe their ID cards at boxes on campus to access the newspapers for free.

The Chicago Tribune was added to the mix – along with the locked boxes – at the beginning of this academic year, as the budget for the program was increased from $7,500 to $13,000 per year.

Saint Mary’s student body president Susan McIlduff said 2005 was the first year the program was not limited to the spring semester; before then, it was about half the size of the current program.

Originally, there were only two distribution sites – the Student Center and LeMans Hall – but locations at the library and Madeleva were added this year, she said.

“When Kellye Mitros and I were elected as student body president and vice president [for 2005-06], we decided to offer the program for the entire academic year,” McIlduff said.

During the past year, McIlduff and current student body vice president Maggie Siefert worked to add The Chicago Tribune to the program to cater to the many students from the Chicago area.

McIlduff said she thinks the “students benefit greatly from the papers.”

“They’re always gone by mid-day,” she said. “Also, I have noticed that more professors are assigning current event journals relating to the course’s subject matter.”

Students at both schools generally seem to approve of the program.

Notre Dame senior Walter Machnicki said he particularly likes The New York Times -that program’s most popular publication.

“I like that they have The New York Times instead of just grabbing The Chicago Tribune for my non-Observer news,” he said.

Likewise, Saint Mary’s sophomore Beth Alexander also enjoys the opportunity to read a national newspaper.

“A lot of us are so busy that we don’t have time to watch the news on TV with the newspapers we can read at leisure,” Alexander said.