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Fall election causes newspaper shortage due to yearly quota

Liz O'Donnell | Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Student body president Grant Schmidt and chief executive assistant Ryan Brellenthin said they have received a few complaints in recent weeks about a lack of papers with The Collegiate Readership Program.

The program, which was implemented at Notre Dame in the fall of 2006, supplies The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and USA Today to students for free in several locations across campus.

“We spoke to our local contact Megan Cox, who is the regional marketing manager at USA Today in Chicago,” Brellenthin said, “She then explained to us the situation of what had happened.”

Student government signed a contract, which allots a set budget for the number of papers it will consume each year. Based off the general consumption, the paper will tweak the number of copies delivered in order to maximize usage while still falling within the budget.

“Basically, we take a hands-off approach to managing papers per location,” Schmidt said.

This year, there was an extremely high level of paper consumption in the fall due to the election. For this reason, USA Today allocated a large number of papers before and after the election.

“In other years, interest in the paper would normally taper off towards the end of fall,” Schmidt said. “This year, they adjusted from the high elections season numbers to lower spring non-election numbers in a sharp manner, which resulted in an apparent drop in papers.”

According to USA Today’s Web site for the program, newspapers should arrive on campus early each morning, allowing students to obtain copies of their desired newspapers throughout the day.

The reason for students noticing a lack of papers in the dining halls after a certain hour, has to do with the dining hall papers being used earlier in the day, Schmidt said.

USA Today uses the excess newspapers as a way of keeping track of student usage of the papers, providing data to Notre Dame about students’ consumption patterns.

The Collegiate Readership Program was developed in 1997 at Penn State by University president Graham Spanier. Their program enjoyed so much success that it became a prototype for programs around the country.

Since then, the program has been implemented at over 500 universities around the country.

According to the USA Today Web site, while the program is mainly a campus initiative, there are a few components of the program that are the same at every participating school.

These include the standard distribution of three different newspapers to the school, access to online academic resources for use in and out of the classroom, marketing and recycling.

At Notre Dame, the newspapers are distributed at six locations, which include North and South dining halls, the LaFortune Student Center, the Mendoza College of Business, the Joyce Center and the Hesburgh Library.

Schmidt said the dining halls are traditionally the two areas where papers are consumed the fastest, so they are looking into distributing an appropriate amount of papers to those locations.

There are over 300 local and national newspapers that have partnered with USA Today to bring the program to campuses

For the upcoming school year, Brellenthin said they are looking to have more frequent contact with Cox so they will be notified when drastic changes occur.

Brellenthin also said the Schmidt-Weber administration is looking to fill the position of Director of the Collegiate Readership Program, which will be a hands-on manager of the program from the University’s end.

“This [program] is a unique service,” Schmidt said. “It is a benefit and convenience for students and will hopefully be sustained.”