ASA scraps print newspapers from budget

Argus Leader and USA Today newspaper racks sit outside the Huddle at the base of the Morrison Commons stairs.

This year, they will remain empty, as the Augustana Student Association (ASA) has switched from a print subsrciption to a digital edition. The Collegiate Readership Program originally launched in 2007.

Digital editions do not provide students with access to the newspapers’ online editions. Rather, the digital versions are facsimiles (exact copies) of the printed newspapers. Augustana students can read through the digital archives of previous prints but will not benefit from the convenience of an online subscription.

The decision was made by the ASA executive board and Mark Blackburn, Dean of Students.

ASA’s treasurer, senior Logan Hattervig, said ASA wanted to “work with transparency,” so they consulted journalism professors Jeffrey Miller and Janet Blank-Libra. They also worked with a representative from USA Today, Diane Steele, before making their decision.

Talks started during the summer, but the decision wasn’t official until this September when the subscriptions were switched for environmental and financial reasons, according to Hattervig.

“We were getting 45 paper copies,” Hattervig said. “Cutting back on that is really helpful in terms of environmental sustainability.”

ASA also saved $7,000 from its annual budget, Hattervig said. “We’ll be using that money for other organizations and clubs instead of focusing it specifically on this resource, which—though useful—only benefits a select group of individuals,” Hattervig said.

Augustana journalism professor Janet Blank-Libra said she respects ASA’s decision to function in a greener way but worries that students won’t read the paper as much.

“I’m afraid [students] might be less likely to read it. It was easy for students to pick up a copy in the commons, take it off to a corner and spend a little time with it,” Blank-Libra said. “But I’m not sure. I know that students very much live in the online world, so maybe they will.”

Blank-Libra used to have her students in her “News Reporting and Writing” class bring a copy of the Argus Leader to every lecture. She said she used the newspaper as an example of great journalism.

“When students were able to get the print edition of the Argus, I’d always tell them this: when I come into the classroom, I don’t want to see your faces. I want to see newspapers in front of your faces,” Blank-Libra said. “So now, I guess, I want to see them reading the Argus on their phone.”

With this change, Blank-Libra said she hopes students will use the app because “anybody who wants to claim they’re a good citizen in this world has to be reading, ideally, more than one newspaper.”

Senior journalism student Grace Wallin said she likes that Augustana provides access to the newspaper because it gives journalism students examples of how local news is handled. Personally, she said she will miss the print version and its crossword, but she understands ASA’s decision.

“It makes sense for Augustana to transition from a print subscription to an online subscription — that seems to be the way journalism is headed anyway,” Wallin said.

Students can access digital editions of USA Today and the Argus Leader by typing “/augie” at the end of the newspaper’s URL, according to an email sent to the student body from Blackburn.

Correction: The email from Mark Blackburn said the New York Times could be accessed by typing /augie at the end of the newspaper’s URL. According to the Mikkelsen Library, this is not true. However, students can create a New York Times account for free using the Academic Pass site.

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