Read All About It

Apr 26 2011 Published by under campus life

Today I have some questions for you:

  • What do you think of the campus newspaper at your university or college?
  • Do you read it?
  • Do you think it is a useful source of news about your campus and community?

I decided to ask these as general questions rather than doing a poll because if I did a poll, I would have to have lots of sub-polls for professors of various ages, postdocs, grads, undergrads, administrators, other staff etc. in order to understand the results.

I am an occasional glancer at my university's newspaper. I haven't found it to be a particularly good or accurate source of news, as far as I can tell when I happen to know something about a particular topic of an article, although some days there is useful information in it. For example, one of my colleagues learned by reading the campus newspaper that his lab was going to be severely affected by building renovations; no administrators had thought to inform him of this.

Mostly, though, I find that I can't really understand the topic of many articles because major questions are unanswered or data/statistics are presented in an uninterpretable way.

Even so, I am glad there is a campus newspaper, and I admire the efforts of the students who put these newspapers together. That probably sounds patronizing, but it isn't mean to be. I recognize the value of having a campus newspaper, even if it isn't awesome, and I think it's better to have a mediocre paper (in the opinion of a professor) than no campus newspaper at all.

I know that working on the campus newspaper can be an all-consuming job, and perhaps creating a truly excellent newspaper requires more time than student-journalists should spend. My involvement with a campus newspaper as a student was very minor, but I know students who have devoted vast amounts of time to their campus newspaper, sometimes to the detriment of their academic program.

I have been at institutions with impressive campus newspapers, but that was when I was younger. It is entirely possible that my criticisms of student newspapers have increased as I have become significantly older than the students who write the news articles. Perhaps I would have found my current campus newspaper more interesting and entertaining when I was younger.

Therefore, if you leave a comment to say that you like/dislike your campus newspaper, I hope you will also note your current academic position and age, so I can try to detect trends and make a splashy (but potentially obvious) conclusion about them and then write about it in a post with a pie diagram and a random photo of students juggling in front of some scenic academic building.

25 responses so far

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Juggling? They don't play HackySack and Ultimate Frisbee anymore? Kids these days.....

  • Not a fan says:

    Maybe "low-level techs" -- like you described your relative a couple of days ago -- appreciate the paper more than someone of your stature.

    • Dr-XoX says:

      What is your problem? F/SP is a full professor (fact). She has a relative who does not have a college degree and who works at her university (fact). She described him with affection (my interpretation) in her anecdote in the recent FSP post. Should she not have mentioned her relative? Not used the word "low-level" (which she explained)? If professors only interact with other PhDs, they are elitist. If they interact with non-PhDs, they are elitist. If they mention that they are professors, they are elitist snobs who are impressed with their "stature". Dear "Not", I hope you can work through your issues.

  • Rxnh says:

    We have 2 newspapers.
    The first is super newsy and boring and irritating to read. I read it and I always regret it.

    The second is amazing and funny and a joy to read. I read it every week. They also share the news like sports and activities on campus. But in less of a "newsy" setting.

    so says the second year senior undergrad

  • SB says:

    I'm an undergraduate, and I LOVE my campus newspaper. There is no other way I would hear of all the vibrant happenings at this huge university. Sure, sometimes the articles aren't exactly New York Times-quality, but I've never picked up an copy that hasn't made me think deeply about interesting and important issues relevant to our campus and beyond. It makes for very enjoyable, light reading. I just love flipping through it as I'm eating lunch - it's become synonymous with "me time". I am going to miss it after I graduate this summer.

    • Alex says:

      Brought to you by the Public Relations Office at SB's university!


      • SB says:

        Except not. I would be stunned if my university's PR department tried to co-opt the student newspaper. This scenario is extremely unlikely, given the frequency of stories involving undie runs and similar debauchery.

        • Alex says:

          Sure, but you spun the debauchery as "the vibrant happenings at this huge university", and said that it makes you "think deeply about interesting and important issues relevant to our campus and beyond."

          You have a gift, whether you realize it or not.

  • Chris says:

    We have a student newspaper. I've always been meaning to publish in the Science section. It gains a few point in favor just by having a Science section.
    Mostly it covers a) campus rape, b) campus politics, c) opinion on popular TV/clothes/etc. Therefore, I very much doubt if it is of any interest to faculty. However, occasionally societies are covered in it as well, which is an excellent source of publicity for people involved in societies (like me).
    Normally, I only browse it. I used to hang out near the place it is distributed from a lot. However, I don't anymore and have not gone out of my way to obtain a copy... [I'm a student]

  • Liz says:

    "then write about it in a post with a pie diagram and a random photo of students juggling in front of some scenic academic building". lol

    This is precisely why I DO enjoy campus newspapers. They are a fun and entertaining read. I wouldn't rely on them as my only source of serous news, obviously, but for some interesting tidbts, they are a good read. I am a graduate student (age 27) and it is really easy to feel isolated from the school as a whole while in grad school. Campus papers are a great way to feel connected

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm an assistant professor at a smallish New England university, and I visit the webpage of our campus paper every day. Some days I read a few articles, occasionally I pick up a print copy, but many days there's nothing interesting.

    The quality of the paper is very uneven. The campus news coverage is generally quite good (and certainly better than either the official university website or its news site), but there is a lot of junk (e.g., the advice column that advocates selling alcohol to minors as the best way to make money on campus, the pictures of the "well-dressed" students posing around campus). Thankfully both the print paper and website are well designed. News on the front page and top section of the website, fluff inside/further down.

  • Kirsti says:

    At my undergrad campus, there was a good student paper (which, of course, declined in quality every year) which was virtually required reading - even the staff read it, and most cafes/doctors' clinics around town would have it as well. It was how you knew what was on around campus, what the administration and the student executive were going to do to us next, and what jokes everyone would be telling.
    The off-campus news/issues content was pretty blegh - something to read during boring Accounting lectures but that was about it - but in terms of on-campus stuff, it was a necessity. And it was hilariously crude, which helped (one edition actually got banned and recalled by the national censor!). I know that the Editor in Chief and 4 or 5 other senior editorial posts were actual jobs - the students who got them would take a year off study to write the paper, then go back to their study. I was a columnist/reviewer, so I just juggled it.

    At my grad campus, there is a lack of student cohesion - there is no student union, and so there is no student radio station, and the student newspaper has zero funds. It has poor circulation - copies sit around in the little stands for weeks until they get thrown in the recycling bin to make way for the new editions. It's not published often enough to be topical (I think it's a monthly), and I really think it is a victim of voluntary student unionism. I've picked up exactly one copy, and it didn't impress me. If there is campus news, I get it through facebook or gossip in the hallways.

    - 24, doctoral.

  • Nicole says:

    Only when our college has done something nationally embarrassing!

    Growing up though I did read the campus newspaper at my mom's uni. But it was a fantastic newspaper because the school had a top journalism department (my current school does not). It did a far better job of covering local issues than either of the other town newspapers... it named names, didn't misquote (as much), and didn't shy away from touchy subjects, and generally maintained neutrality outside of clearly labeled opinions pages. And had great comic strips. And a hilarious personals section. Well worth reading.

    So our campus newspaper sucks, but campus newspapers don't have to suck.

    I still remember some of my favorite comic strips. Like the one where they note that the concrete sidewalks don't get from point A to point B in the most efficient way, causing people to cut across the grass. So they decided to put in new sidewalks consulting students on where to place them. Problem: They did this on a Friday night (picture of empty beer bottles and crazy paths). Hilarious. *sigh*

  • studyzone says:

    I read the paper once a week, when they run a column of comments (usually complaints) that students phone or email in. It's amusing to see what students are complaining about these days. I find that the paper as a whole tries to do a fair job of presenting controversial issues, but the past few editors have had clear biases that are revealed in editorial decisions and have led to much grousing from commentators - much like the big-city dailies.

  • Em says:

    I'm a part-time grad student (working full time, and awfully old & crochety for 30) at a large research-oriented university in Canada. There is a student paper, but I've never seen a paper copy (but I'm also only on campus 3h/wk and go straight from the subway entrance in the building to my classroom and back again). I used to subscribe to the student paper's RSS feed, but stopped - not because of lack of quality (the articles were typically fairly well written), but because I didn't care about the topics - I don't care about sports, on-campus or otherwise; I'm not a huge fan of "the Arts", and don't live downtown so even if I cared it would be irrelevant; the Science sections I saw coverage of elsewhere; and I had zero interest in student politics. I fall out of their target demographic (traditional, full-time, undergraduate students), and I don't fault them for writing a paper that doesn't attract everyone. My faculty is quite good about mass-emailing people in advance of life-affecting projects (fire alarm testing, construction, service outages etc.), but there are no labs in the building so even with negligible notice, alternate arrangements typically aren't awfully difficult for anyone.

    At my undergrad university (back in the early 00's), there were two printed papers: a campus-wide one, and an Engineering one. The engineering one had medium-quality writing, and was typically of direct interest to me. The campus-wide one didn't distribute widely in the Engineering buildings, and I didn't venture to the rest of campus often, so I didn't see it as often. It was of highly varying quality depending on the staff for the year, and focused on things that were of social or general interest to the wider student body. There was very little overlap between the two papers. My main source of university news was the university's online "daily bulletin" - it posted information about service outages and construction, faculty news (awards, interests, projects, searches, etc.), and other tidbits of interest to the full campus population.

  • Amber says:

    My undergrad university had a student newspaper. I enjoyed it mainly for its crime log and old NYT crosswords (which I did during classes). But it did have decent stories and was a great way to keep up on happenings around campus. I think what I like most about my old campus paper is their use of other media such as facebook and twitter. It may only be 140 characters but they instantly keep students informed of immediate happenings. I subscribe even though I graduated and no longer live in the area.

  • gekko says:

    I am a middle-aged professor and I think the campus newspaper at my university is extremely immature and unprofessional. When there is a "humor" issue, it is all about bodily fluids, photoshopped photos of the university president in a diaper, and crude references to sex (woohoo!). Even in non-humor issues, the news stories don't really explain anything. I glance at the headlines to get the gist of what is going on, but I seldom go beyond that.

    What I wonder, though, is whether I think this way because I am a cranky old professor, because I am a sports-hating female, or because I'm a nerd. I am clearly not the target audience of the newspaper (of course!) but I wouldn't mind if there were more basic campus news in it.

  • I read the Lantern occasionally when I was an undergrad, but as a grad student it fails to have any relevance for me. I don't care how is doing. The only time I find myself reading it is if there is a big university-wide event/scandal that I'd like to familiarize myself with.

  • UnlikelyGrad says:

    Grad student (late 30's) at a small technically-oriented university. We have a weekly paper. I used to read every edition; the fact that I've stopped has more to do with the fact that my new office isn't conveniently located across from a distribution point, the way my old office was.

    Given the size of my school, I thought the newspaper was pretty good. The news was interesting and frequently relevant. But I have to admit that I read it primarily for the "features." MyU is a pretty nerdy school, and so these were the sorts of things nerds like me can enjoy: science news from around the world (good for those of us who only read journals in our disciplines), a "Geek of the Week" interview, and--best of all--a whole page of satire, every week. Around April Fool's Day the whole paper is satire, of course.

  • someone says:

    I did my undergraduate out of the US, so my first encounter with college newspapers was during grad school at the University of Texas at Austin. At that time, I used to read the Daily Texan every day (in fact, it was my main newspaper) and I thought it was a very good newspaper. Fast forward a few years and a few universities, I'm a science professor (early 30's) now and I can assure you the Daily Texan is outstanding, as I couldn't find anything 1/10 of that.

  • metasyntactic says:

    I am a graduate student at a large private university. I do regularly read my campus newspaper, but through their RSS feed rather than the paper copy. I have the strong impression that I am not their target audience, however. The articles are generally about college fashion, sports, and various issues that mainly concern undergraduates. I read it for the occasional real news about developments in the university (though I generally know of these before reading the paper) and the amusing crime log (the real crimes aren't amusing, but things like shoplifting students who get caught and unfortunately drunk students are).

    My undergraduate institution had a more compelling newspaper that reported on issues of wider applicability and would strongly scrutinize the university's administration on important issues.

  • samantha says:

    Our campus has 3, plus a literary publication. The biweekly newsprint, the monthly newsprint, and the monthly magazine-style. I read them all, because they all offer different kinds of news, most of it is valuable (or at least I get to see where people are getting their misinformation) and each give me a different perspective.

    The bi-weekly is pretty decent - it tends to be ahead of the administration in letting students know about things that are important to them. Like fee increases, tuition increases, etc. It also serves as a campus gossip column - there are enough professors who make questionable decisions that on slow news days, the staff can always dig something up. It's a slightly liberal bent, which is pretty expected since we're a fairly liberal campus in a really liberal city.

    The monthly magazine is a much more conservative read - they do more in-depth stories as opposed to the bi-weekly's quick articles. I disagree with a lot of the editorial content - and probably half of it is editorial content - but they're still solid.

    The monthly newsprint is at the far left of the spectrum. They try to balance out the magazine, but their reporting... if it can be called that... is terrible. Still, points for trying, I guess.

    The literary pub is great, if you're in to that sort of thing. It solicits writing from all students, and gives a place for poetry and prose that doesn't belong in the other forums.

    On top of it all, we've got a student-run publishing house, that does books written by students, in conjunction with our Masters of Publishing program and the English department.

    This is all especially impressive, since we don't have a formal journalism program at my school.

    • samantha says:

      Also forgot to mention: large public university. It's all paid for out of student fees. :/

  • CSgrad says:

    I'm a part-time grad student at a medium-sized private university that is well-ranked but not top-of-the-heap. I read the student paper when I'm on campus, because as a part-time student who lives nearly an hour from campus and works 45 minutes from campus, I'm rather disconnected from the university culture as a whole. When I was an undergrad at a top tech school, there were so many grad students (among those who had done their undergrad elsewhere) who didn't seem to know anything about the university outside their own lab, even though they were on campus all day, and I thought they were missing out, as the campus culture was extremely rich and vibrant (and the less isolated grad students participated happily). I don't want to be like them. A university is like a small town (or a large town, depending on where you are). I want to understand and engage with my "town," and given that I'm not there all that often, the student paper is one of the major ways that I have to do that.

    The quality is okay. The real news articles are reasonably good. The genre of columns that I will call "musings on life" are almost uniformly terrible, and the "features" section is in general a weak point. The sports coverage is mostly competent but not my area of interest.

    When I was an undergrad at the aforementioned top tech school, the student paper was almost universally reviled. It suffered from the same problem that many other student groups at this school did - that the students had to work very hard on academics and didn't always have the time to put out something high-quality. In addition, this school had no journalism program, no communications program, almost no English/writing majors, and no training opportunities for aspiring reporters, so the typical reporter was an engineering major with no journalistic training who might never have written a news story before college, even for a high school paper, and was working for the paper because they thought it would be fun or had fantasies of a double life as an investigative reporter.

    Sometimes people would gripe that the major state university attended by their friend or sibling had so much better a paper than ours, and lament the poor quality of our paper. While agreeing with most of the laments, I would point out that the major state university's paper was usually staffed by journalism majors with actual training, and sometimes part of the journalism curriculum or advised by journalism professors, and that the major state university was never ranked by the Princeton Review as having the students who spend the most time studying, and of COURSE they were going to have a better paper, because how could they not?

    In spite of those problems, I usually read it, as I was very interested in school politics and policy debates, and it was the only news source that regularly covered those. I was active in student government, so occasionally the articles were about me, or quoted me, and I wanted to know what was being said. Most of the articles weren't abysmal, and occasionally they were even good.