Leaders adjust news options for students
Ann Marie Jakubowski | Friday, December 12, 2014
Before they could bring copies of The Wall Street Journal to campus this year, student body president and vice present Lauren Vidal and Matthew Devine needed to make a series of behind-the-scenes changes.
In the past, student government coordinated Notre Dame’s participation in the College Readership Program through the Gannett Company, which brought copies of The New York Times, USA Today and The South Bend Tribune to campus. After discussions with the student senate and research, Vidal said they decided to end the relationship with Gannett and instead negotiate individual contracts with The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Their research showed that the Readership program was a significant expense, that only about 20-30 people picked up The South Bend Tribune copies per day and that many students expressed a desire for access to The Wall Street Journal, especially for business classes.
“[The College Readership Program] was very costly,” Vidal said. “We knew it was going to be an undertaking, but we said ‘what if we try to create our own program?’ And so we negotiated the contracts in such a way that we were going to save money, and with the money saved, we created a student job. …We’re proud of that.”
Devine said the first priority was seriously evaluating student input on the program instead of continuing the established system by default. When the contract renewal period came up with the Gannett Company in the spring, he said the department of academic affairs decided to change courses.
“We were in a negotiation process with The Wall Street Journal for a month,” Vidal said. “They don’t typically do this kind of [mass subscription] program; we basically just created our own readership program with two individual contracts, one with The New York Times and one with the Wall Street Journal.”
Two student employees are now tasked with distributing the papers to both dining halls and to LaFortune Student Center each morning. Devine said 400 copies of The Wall Street Journal and 300 copies of The New York Times are available in total. Online access for the Times is available too, but not for the Journal. In the first month of the school year, Devine said approximately 240 copies of the Times and 310 copies of the Journal were picked up each day.
The decision to eliminate The South Bend Tribune subscription was based on the low readership numbers they found, Devine said.
“Our whole perspective throughout the decision to eliminate the Tribune was not that we were shifting our focus away from the community in any way,” he said. “We were just trying to figure out a better way to help people be involved in the community. This service wasn’t being taken advantage of, so we thought we could figure out a better way [to stay connected to the community].”
Devine said they did not get any reaction from the Tribune after the subscription was cut, probably because it was a secondary relationship administered through Gannett.
“What’s important to emphasize is that this really wasn’t a hasty decision,” Vidal said. “We’re saving money with this system, and we’re able to pay students to work a new job above minimum wage.”
Their opinions are based in hands-on experience — for the first five weeks of the program, Vidal and Devine delivered the papers themselves at 6 a.m. before they could hire regular employees.
“We did have some kinks in the beginning, but it worked out,” Vidal said. “We really have received nothing but positive feedback about the program.”