UB eliminates Student Readership Program

Students, staff discuss the cut newspaper program and online alternatives


UB has eliminated its Student Readership Program, which provided students, faculty and staff with complimentary copies of The New York Times and USA Today.

The program was eliminated because it was costly and had a “poor distribution process,” according to UB Spokesperson John Della Contrada. The newspapers were not being delivered on time and were often left on sidewalks outside of buildings instead of being placed in newspaper boxes where students could access them, Della Contrada explained. The university felt the program was not a good investment due to these reasons and especially given the fact that many students now get their news online.

“The service was not serving its intended purpose of consistently getting newspapers into the hands of students,” Della Contrada said.

Ninety percent of students surveyed said the Student Readership Program contributed to the habit of reading a newspaper regularly and over 90 percent of students surveyed believed that reading newspapers is important to their education, according to the 2015-2016 Campus Life Fee Report on the Student Accounts website.

A daily New York Times subscription costs $9.75 a week for the first year. A subscription to USA Today is $25 for three months with access to print and digital.

The university felt the program was not a good investment, especially given the fact that many students now get their news online.

Campus Life served as liaison for the program and the funding for the newspapers came out of students’ Comprehensive Fee. UB libraries provide access to several major news publications via its databases.

Campus Life decided the program was unreliable and not fulfilling expectations, while the university tried to address the delivery issues over the course of several months. Campus Life has not received any complaints from students about the program being discontinued, according to Della Contrada.

“In fact, over the past six years, Campus Life never received any student inquiries – pro or con – about the program,” Della Contrada said. “Access [to newspapers via the library databases] is provided by the technology component of the student Comprehensive Fee.”

Zayne Sember, a sophomore computational physics and political science major, is disappointed that UB decided to cut the program.

“Newspapers offer a vetted and reliable source of information to students. I think that’s important with the widespread availability of unverified information online,” Sember said.

He thinks UB should have involved students in the decision to cut the program.

“I had not heard about this at all and they should have spoken with the student body before making a decision to remove a service like this,” he said.

While Sember said he prefers online articles because of ease of access, being able to grab a physical newspaper gave him incentive to read the news when he otherwise might not have.

“The only time I would ever read the newspaper was when I grabbed a copy on campus between classes,” Sember said. “Now that it's no longer available, I doubt I’ll pick one up for years to come.”

Cynthia Tysick, an associate librarian, thinks it makes sense that the program was eliminated based on the unreliable delivery.

“If [the newspapers] weren’t being kept up to date, students are going to kind of lose faith in it. They’re going to stop looking at the box,” Tysick said. “So if that was starting to happen, then I agree it wasn’t worth the cost.”

Tysick feels accessing news articles digitally isn’t a “direct replacement” for reading a physical newspaper because you don’t get to see all of the headlines immediately on the front page. However, students can still access digital news articles through the library’s database subscriptions.

“If they click ‘E-Journals’ on the library website and type [a newspaper title] there, a list of databases that you pay for through your student fees and that the library subscribes will give you access to several publications,” Tysick said.

The New York Times and USA Today are available through five different databases that UB libraries subscribe to, according to Tysick.

“There’s one called InfoTrac Newsstand, and that one’s really nice because it provides you with an RSS feed.”

An RSS feed can reside on your laptop, or you can download an app that allows you to create a news tracking feed and track top news stories. Tysick recommended an RSS feed app called Feedly.

“It helps to keep up to date with the news without having to go directly into the databases,” Tysick said.

Tysick believes access to credible news sources is important for students, no matter the format.

“[News] should stimulate you to be curious about the world around you and what’s going on,” Tysick said. “It’s important to know what the facts are, and to know what the pros and the cons to the issues are so you can have a civil conversation with people—and newspapers allow you to do that.”

She feels being up-to-date on the news is essential to having a voice on important issues.

“If you’re not reading the news, you’re not able to be part of the conversation,” Tysick said.

Maddy Fowler is a news editor and can be reached at maddy.fowler@ubspectrum.com