Penn State Intercom......September 5, 2002

Survey says newspaper
program is a hit

By Amy Neil
Public Information newspaper

Surveys conducted by Penn State's Student Affairs Research and Assessment Office reinforce what President Graham B. Spanier has been saying since the inception of the Newspaper Readership Program five years ago -- "Regular newspaper readership contributes positively to a student's overall education and their ability to understand current events."

Spanier's sentiments were echoed in a recent Faculty Newspaper Survey, when more than 78 percent of the respondents credited the program for helping to enhance a student's ability to discuss important current events or issues.

"Reading a newspaper each day is perhaps the single most important part of being an informed citizen," said Spanier. "It is critical that college students develop an understanding of the world they will help shape. Reading a newspaper will help them contribute to their careers, their communities and their families."

Last year, Penn State students read more than 1.8 million local, regional and state newspapers -- more than 13,200 newspapers each day -- securing the University's position as having the largest newspaper readership program at any university in the nation.

A recent "Penn State Pulse" survey of students participating in the program shows that 82 percent are satisfied with the program. More than half of the students surveyed said they used newspapers more than any other medium, such as television or the Internet, to access news. –We have an agreement with The New York Times th

According to the students, reading a newspaper on a regular basis has helped them feel more informed about local community issues, have a better understanding of public policy and politics, and enhanced their participation in class discussions. Nearly three-fourths of the students said they had an improved ability to discuss current events and were able to have informed opinions about national and international concerns.

"The purpose of the program is to help students develop a more complete understanding of the world they live in and enhance their learning environment," said Bill Asbury, vice president for student affairs. "The student survey results are very encouraging. It is clear to the administration that our students want access to daily newspapers and that it is having an impact on the learning process."

The faculty survey revealed that more than 80 percent of faculty either require newspaper readership or refer to newspaper articles in their classes. In addition, faculty said the program helped students make connections between real-life experiences and concepts presented in class.

"This program is one of the most important academic services offered to our students," wrote one respondent in the comments section of the survey. "Almost daily it allows me to make connections between science, technology and society."

The faculty survey also indicated that one-third of the respondents obtained newspapers from the student newspaper dispensers once or more a week in the two weeks prior to completing the survey.

"There are legitimate ways for faculty to participate in the Newspaper Readership Program," said Asbury. "We have an agreement with The New York Times that allows faculty who incorporate this paper into their course curriculum to receive free daily delivery of the paper to their office."

Kevin Cappallo, director of national educational sales and marketing at The New York Times, said faculty members must list reading The New York Times as a supplemental text requirement to secure a complimentary daily subscription.

"Faculty can e-mail either me (cappak@nytimes.com) or Michael Jacobs (jacobms@nytimes.com) to receive more information on obtaining a complimentary subscription."

Another way students benefit from the program is through Penn State's general scholarship fund, which received a boost this year thanks to the recycling efforts for the Newspaper Readership Program at the University Park campus.

This summer, Superior Onyx Waste Services of DuBois presented Asbury with a check for $6,953.54. Recycled newspapers, collected by the Office of Physical Plant are marketed by Superior Waste, which donates a portion of the profits to the University's general scholarship fund. The New York Times, USA Today and Centre Daily Times offer matching contributions.

Combined with the matching funds from the participating newspapers, the 2001-2002 contribution to the scholarship fund totaled $13,907. Since the inception of the readership program in 1997, 831 tons of newspapers (The New York Times, USA Today, Centre Daily Times and The Daily Collegian) have been recycled. To date, $48,861 has been added to the general scholarship fund because of the recycling efforts. Although University Park is the only campus that is generating scholarship dollars, students at all Penn State campuses benefit from the scholarship money.

"It has been exciting to see the program grow over the past five years," said Timothy Bertram, district sales manager for USA Today. "All publications involved have worked closely with University administration regarding marketing, delivery and recycling. This partnership has been vital to the overall success of the Newspaper Readership Program."

To ensure the continued popularity of the program, the Centre Daily Times, The New York Times and USA Today combine their marketing efforts not only at the University Park campus, but systemwide.

"Our goal is to continue to market the program throughout the Penn State network so that all students can take advantage of the value of the Newspaper Readership Program," said Yolanda McDonald, consumer marketing director for the Centre Daily Times.

According to McDonald, fall semester promotional plans include placing posters at all campuses, special "stall stories" posters placed in rest rooms at University Park, and a booth at the HUB to promote the program the first week of classes and CATA bus advertising. "Over the past three years we have refined our marketing tactics so that we reach all students at every campus," she said.


Amy Neil can be reached at amyneil@psu.edu.

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