When you work in journalism, read the news

I woke up late yesterday and at first, thought I may have still been dreaming when only three out of about 30 or more students in my class raised their hands when asked how many of them read the newspaper every day. This was a mass communications course. Two out of the three people who raised their hands were journalism majors, myself included, who were taking the advertising class.

Let me make it clear that I’m not picking on the advertising and public relations majors for not reading the newspaper. Sadly, I have witnessed a similarly low number in a beginning reporting class last year when the professor asked how many people read one or more newspapers each day.

It never ceases to amaze me that mass communications majors, who should be the most informed about current events, are not reading the news. Students who study medicine could not get away with not staying informed about the latest research or medical treatments in their field. Nor could business majors expect to be successful without keeping up-to-date with consumer behavior.

Reading the newspaper requires nothing more than putting a quarter in a newspaper stand. It should be even less of an effort to read the paper when they are provided on campus for free and literally handed to you on your way to class.

In an effort to encourage more students to read the paper, USA Today has developed a college readership program providing more bins on campus if they are requested. According to a 2002-03 Collegiate Readership survey, 54 percent of students said they believe newspaper readership has declined since attending college.

But how hard can it be? It could not be any easier to selectively choose what you want to read when stories are conveniently labeled with headlines and the newspaper is divided by sections. The idea is that you don’t have to read the whole thing as you would a novel or journal for class. Even the first few paragraphs, if the story is written well, should give an understanding of the story, which is why I can’t understand why some don’t even read just a few stories.

For mass communications majors who take beginning reporting, quizzes are given at the start of the class. Included are questions on the main news section to give students an incentive to read the paper. But this shouldn’t even be necessary, because the incentive should be that you what to know the issues occurring not only in the United States, but internationally.

Last fall when the news coverage of former USF engineering professor Sami Al-Arian frequently appeared in newspapers, a quiz asked to name the professor who was involved in a case of disputed academic freedom.

One student wrote just the last name, which would have been fine, but she thought his last name was “Arian.” Later she argued with the professor that she still wanted credit because she kind of knew the name of the professor. It shows you how little people are informed when they don’t read the paper.

I have spoken to fellow mass communications majors who work at The Oracle and they have told me that not much has changed in response to the amount of people who read the paper on a regular basis. It is no secret that newspaper readership of Generation Y is low. According to The New York Times, a study from five years ago showed that on 22 percent of people between ages 16 and 32 did read the newspaper.

But, as Generation Y, it should be that much easier for us to incorporate reading the newspaper on a regular basis. Especially since practically every big newspaper offers an online edition that is free to read. There really shouldn’t be any excuses for not reading up on the news.

Grace Agostin is a senior majoring in mass communications and an Associate Editor at the Oracle. oraclegrace@yahoo.com