Readership program dies with decline of newspapers, new app presented

by Laura Wiersema, News Director

Gone are the days of print newspapers at Simpson College. Starting in January 2016, students, faculty, staff and community members will have access to a mobile app called The Buzz, featuring news from various sources including USA Today and The Des Moines Register.

The print edition of The Simpsonian, though, will still be distributed throughout campus. 

Since the 1990s, Simpson has provided students with newspapers through the Collegiate Readership Program. Molly Monk, chair of the Student Life Committee of Student Government Association, said the program was very effective in accomplishing its goal when it was first implemented.

“It was designed to make sure students were civically engaged by providing them with news sources,” she said.

Over the years, however, usage of the program declined as more and more students received their news from other, often online, sources. Despite the decline, $29,000 was budgeted each year to continue the dying program, and only about $12,000 of which was used.

The remaining $17,000 sat in an account only accessible to Jim Thorius, former vice president of Student Development and Planning.

“We were taking in more money than it was costing. Right now, it’s not a good use of funds,” Rich Ramos, associate dean of students, said.

This year, the money accumulated in the account was transferred to SGA to be used to benefit students.

To gauge the best way to keep students informed and civically engaged, SGA sent out a survey to assess how students got their news.

An overwhelming majority of the responses cited online sources, such as Facebook and Twitter, as their main sources of information. Ramos attributed the massive change to the 24-hour news cycle available.

“There are tons of ways for students, faculty and staff to find out what’s happening in the world other than just a newspaper that’s 24 hours late,” Ramos said.

Monk said she saw the change as an opportunity to better reach the Simpson community.

“Student government still feels that it is important to help provide students with access to current events and to help engage the campus civically,” she said. “But we did not think that going with printed news was a viable option given the results of our student survey and the financial and physical results from the readership program.”

After researching mobile and online options for providing students with news, the Student Life Committee came to a vote between an online and mobile package from The New York Times or The Buzz app from USA Today. Members of SGA unanimously voted for the app.

According to Monk, The New York Times was the newspaper picked up the least during the last year, which factored into the vote. The Buzz will also be personalized to tailor to Simpson, making it possible for the content to be as relevant as possible. Simpson Student Media and The Acorn will have their own spots in the app as well.

The best part, students say, is that the app can be accessed anywhere, anytime. This means students can continue to utilize the new program over breaks and off campus.

The Buzz will cost Simpson only $12,000 per year, less than half of the originally allotted budget, continuing to save student and the college money in the long run.

This equates to $10 per student for the entire year.

“We’re excited for this opportunity for Simpson,” Monk said. “I think it will be a cool benefit for the student body.”

We want to hear your opinion. Weigh in on the positives and negatives of this change on our Facebook page, The Simpsonian, or on our website,