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In wired generation, students like paper for campus news
As editions disappear, so do dollars
According to a survey that the company conducted of reading habits of college students in 2011, 88 percent of those who do read the school paper have read one of the past five issues. Three-fifths say they prefer the print version, compared with 16 percent who prefer to get their college news fix solely online.
“Print is still the preferred medium,” Ms. Nelson said.
The students said that reading their campus paper in print, almost always free and readily available at popular gathering places, was just the easiest way to stay current on school happenings, according to the survey. Students tended to reserve their online time for Facebook, Web surfing and academic research.
Ms. Nelson notes that many students cited another benefit of print: “It’s easier to read at work or class without attracting attention.”
For American University’s Ms. Anderson, print is a valuable asset in the overall product mix. She sees the paper as a part of a package working with the online and social media platforms. The online traffic to the Eagle has increased in the past three years, Ms. Anderson said, but print continues to be in high demand.
She said that the Eagle’s board of directors - a board independent from the university and made up of journalists from such places as USA Today and National Public Radio - had considered lowering the circulation count of the print edition from 6,000 copies because of an uptick in Web traffic. However, the current production run on the campus of 6,700 students is nearly gone on good days.
Ms. Anderson cited the paper’s edition a few weeks ago when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, spoke at the school on a Friday and was met by 20 to 30 students protesting her state’s immigration policies. The Eagle staff posted updates of the speech on Twitter, uploaded photos to their Facebook site and had a story on their website, theeagleonline.com, within hours.
This was important, because students are using many methods for consuming the news. “So many of our students are on Twitter,” she said.
But when the Eagle came out in print with the same news story and three additional editorials, it was still a popular issue, Ms. Anderson said. Few copies sat on the stands the next day.
The online temptation
Even though Regan Pulaski, a neurobiology student, commutes between his Berlin, Conn., home and the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs, he occasionally picks up the school paper. He said he uses the most convenient method of getting the news - with his smartphone, that way is Twitter.
Mr. Pulaski said he notices most of his fellow UConn students grabbing the paper that is distributed outside cafeterias and dorms, and has even seen copies being read under desks during class.
“Every once in a while, I do pick it up and see what is going on,” he said. He attends classes three times a week and grabs a free paper about twice a month.
“You don’t want to be looking at [an Internet] stream all the time,” he said.
But the stream is precisely where the University of Georgia’s paper, the Red and Black, has jumped. In August, the university in Athens made the transition to a “digital-first” format, putting its daily content online while providing a weekly paper and a monthly magazine.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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