USA Today proposing newspaper program

By Gus Bode

Students have mixed feelings regarding “free” papers

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Syndicated papers are vying for SIUC student readership!

USA Today representatives recently approached the Graduate and Professional Student Council to discuss the Collegiate Readership Program, designed to enhance the learning environment of college students but could also provide fierce competition for campus newspapers.


Lisa Trube, regional marketing manager for USA Today, said the program consists of a regional, national and a local newspaper and would be delivered to the University each weekday morning. The papers would be placed in bins located in residence hall lobbies and other locations. This would allow students to easily access the papers on campus.

The Collegiate Readership Program currently reaches 260 college campuses nationwide. The program also allows students access to a daily assortment of national and local news.

Trube also believes the program has enriching benefits for students.

“This program enhances the learning environment for students and encourages students to seek the news,” Trube said.

Regardless of whether the individual student chooses to read these papers, a fee of $5 per semester would be enforced to cover subscription costs. SIUC would also choose the newspapers that would be distributed. Proposed publications would be USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Southern Illinoisan.

This is not the first time USA Today has tried to introduce this program to SIUC. The program was initially proposed in 2001 to the Residence Hall Association but, after discussion, was decided not “feasible” for on-campus residents. The cost at the time was $20 per student per year.

Some students welcome a variety of news sources. SIUC student Kent Nash believes this is a good idea because it will keep the students well informed.


“I think it’s a good idea because it will allow students to get a different perspective on issues,” said Nash, a junior in social studies education from Arcola.

Iraa Williams believes a variety of news genres will broaden students’ minds as to what is going on around the world.

“I like a variety. Everyone won’t have to choose just the DE” said Williams, a junior in business management from Chicago.

GPSC discussed the program at its Sept. 9 meeting during roundtable discussion. Several members expressed concerns about motives of the program. One member thought the program was just a corporate ploy to sell newspapers in disguise of an educational tool.

The council decided to table the topic so they could discuss it in more detail at the next meeting.

Other students argue SIUC has already imposed too many fees.

Student Dan Webb believes there are already enough student fees. He also said he prefers the Daily Egyptian to other papers because it deals with issues around campus.

“I like the DE. I don’t need to know anything else,” said Webb, a senior in administrative justice from Charleston. “I just care about what is going on at SIUC.”

Although Trube said she has no knowledge of any program that directly hurt a campus newspaper, some opponents said the program, whether it intended to or not, would compete directly with campus newspapers.

One concern about the program deals with advertising sales. National or local companies could jump ship from advertising in a college newspaper if they thought that one of the papers through the program would generate more sales. If the devastation was large enough, a college paper could ask for an increase in student fees to cover the loss.

While students would pay to read the newspapers through the program, the Daily Egyptian, which is self-supported, generates its revenue from advertising sales.

One college paper that was directly affected by the implementation of the program was Penn State’s Daily Collegian.

According to Gerry Lynn Hamilton, who is the general manager for the publication, the program caused a significant decrease in readership for the college newspaper. He detailed his views about the readership program in a summer 2001 article, “Dealing with Penn State’s Newspaper Readership Program.”

In fall 1997, Penn State became the first school to support this type of program. The program seemed to be well received, and USA Today, New York Times and Centre Daily Times became available for the students to read.

Meanwhile, the campus newspaper had an exceptionally difficult year. Unexpected turnover, lackluster advertising sales and financial crisis plagued the campus newsroom. By actively looking for ways to improve the paper, the Daily Collegian overcame its hardships, but Hamilton credits the problems to Penn State’s readership program.

“Increasing (national) readership is a good thing. Doing it at the expense of a good college newspaper is a bad thing,” Hamilton wrote in the article.

Reporter Leah Williams can be reached at [email protected]