Collegiate Readership Program brings national newspapers to students

Each day, students pick up approximately 1,400 free newspapers at various locations throughout campus due to the Collegiate Readership Program.

Emily Ganschinietz, senior in LAS and Illinois student senator who works on the program, said it is designed to inform students about news that occurs outside of campus.

“Its purpose is to get college students out of the bubble,” Ganschinietz said.

The program, created by USA Today in 1997 and used at almost 500 campuses nationwide, is responsible for the distribution of The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times and USA Today to 18 locations on campus. Ganschinietz said the publications were chosen based on financial resources with the program’s budget and their distribution at schools with similar programs.

“Reading the newspapers can break the ‘campus bubble’ that often occurs on campuses where students are immersed in their studies and campus life and lack awareness of what’s going on off campus and in the world,” said Heidi Zimmerman, director of communications for USA Today.

The program, which began in September of 2009, has distribution bins at locations such as the Illini Union and the Activities and Recreation Center.

Ganschinietz said she feels the program is effective in helping student awareness of current events.

“I do feel like it’s been productive,” Ganschinietz said. “It’s growing obviously as more people find out about it.”

She said 76,630 newspapers were picked up during the fall semester.

William Hau, freshman in DGS, said he picks up USA Today almost every weekday in order to keep up with the news.

“It helps a lot with examples for, like, papers and everything,” Hau said. “You can definitely use current events.”

The program is funded by a $2 student nonrefundable fee, but Ganschinietz and Zimmerman said the University only pays for the papers that are picked up.

“Any newspapers remaining when new editions are dropped off are removed for recycling,” Zimmerman said. “This means the program is only as expensive as it is popular.”

Despite being in its first year at the University, the Collegiate Readership Program is not new to college campuses.

Zimmerman said among the 500 participating schools are small private colleges and large public universities. The program is implemented at seven schools within the Big Ten: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Iowa, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Penn State, Michigan State University and Indiana University.

She added that Penn State was the first school to implement it in 1997 and currently holds the most expansive program.

Although about 1,400 papers are picked up daily, not all students take advantage of the Collegiate Readership Program.

Brian Sullivan, junior in AHS, said he does not read the newspaper, but he is still informed on current events through phone and application updates, word-of-mouth and television.

“Most of my stuff I get from online newspapers,” Sullivan said.

Ganschinietz said she hopes the program will expand, but it depends on its budget.

Moving forward, Ganschinietz said it is more likely that certain distribution locations, such as Temple Hoyne Buell Hall, where only about six newspapers are picked up daily, will be changed before the number of locations is increased from the current 18.