College Newspapers: A Dying Breed?


internet student

Today’s students prefer to read what they want online. 

Way back during the days when I attended college, the student newspaper was a hot mover. Everyone knew where they could find the most recent issue and if you didn’t snag your copy soon after the news stands were filled with them, then you were out of luck. Yes, the library always carried back issues and various pages could be found scattered on tables in the student center. Still, to get a fresh copy with the ink still wet you’d have to move pretty fast.

Here in the 21st century, the student newspaper is under siege. It isn’t difficult administrators withholding funding that is causing the problem, rather it is the way that people get their news: the internet is taking its toll on the college newspaper, much as it has been on your local daily. In a few more years, will the dead tree media depart from your local campus? It could, if a report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is on the money.

Community College Newspapers: R.I.P.?

College students don’t read anymore. Well, that is not an entirely accurate statement as many college students do read, but they are reading what is posted online instead of what has been printed. True, many classes require students to purchase textbooks, but the bulk of student’s private reading is through social networks (MySpace and Facebook, for example), forums, blogs and news sites.

In Washington State, many community colleges have axed their newspapers for a variety of reasons including staff turnover and funding, but also because no one is reading them.  At North Seattle Community College, the student newspaper — The Polaris — took a break for the summer, but when the students returned in September, the newspaper stayed on break.  Never mind that the college doesn’t even have a journalism department — the newspaper apparently died because of lack of interest.

The Dead Tree Media

Of course the death of dead tree media begs an important question: why can’t college newspapers make the transition to online media as so many daily newspapers have done? Likely, many won’t and for the following reasons:

  • Journalism departments at some colleges are non-existent or poorly staffed.
  • Staff turnover, always a problems with student newspapers might be just as common with online versions of the same.
  • For most students, working on a college newspaper is an extra-curricular activity.  Balancing studies, social life, and work keeps people busy with other pursuits.
  • Oversight could be an issue. Inasmuch that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled several times in favor of free speech for college students, university administrators may be hesitant seeing instantly updated college news posted to the web. Just think about this: posting an unflattering photograph to the newspaper’s website could cause some ruckus. Perhaps that is why some schools would simply prefer to allow their student papers to die.

Start Your Own College News Blog?

Of course, there is an easy way around this problem, one that anyone can handle: start your own blog based on what is happening on campus and you’ll soon attract a healthy following. Isn’t that what student news should be all about anyway?

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Categories: Campus News