How to read a newspaper, this newspaper

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By Darren Johnson, Publisher
Campus News

Note: This was written for the printed edition of Campus News.

Congrats. You are one of approximately 7000 students (and a handful of faculty and staff) who picked up this issue of Campus News.

We’re in our eighth semester, and will hit 27 campuses by year’s end.

I’m not being facetious with the headline above, though, “How to read a newspaper.” Sure, you know how to read, and have seen newspapers before.

But today’s typical student may have had less exposure to newspapers than previous generations. Your high school probably did not have a newspaper. It’s also less likely that your parents subscribed to one. There are fewer free papers around, and much fewer coin-operated news boxes.

So, it may not be out of the realm of possibility that you don’t have much experience with this thing that you are holding. Please let me give you a brief primer.

You don’t read a newspaper like a book
Many students get intimidated by newspapers because they are used to books, which are read linearly, cover to cover. A big newspaper may have just as many words as a book.

But with a newspaper, you browse and prioritize the stories. You pick the story you want to read most, read that, and then the one you want to read second most, etc. Sure, if you are stuck on an airplane, you may read the whole thing, but you don’t have to.

A print newspaper is probably better than reading Internet news
YES, I know, I know. The Internet has a lot of news. Tons. And much of it may be better than what you may find in a small newspaper like Campus News. And the Internet has speed that can’t be beat.

But, chances are, you are not finding the stories you should be reading on the web. There’s just too much clutter. And click just once on a story on Britney Spears or the like and the curated, cookied web sites will have you forever typecast, shoving such stories down your throat forever and ever.

When I poll my students — I teach the occasional journalism or related class at a number of colleges — they say they read Internet news regularly. But when I ask them topical questions — do you know who Snowden is? — they have little clue.

But, when I assign them print newspapers to read, they come into class much more well versed. That’s because some editor at the paper prioritized a bunch of articles to be placed in the paper based on creating “the record.” Print newspaper people know that they are recording our times. That their newspaper is supposed to be an accurate representation of recent events. It’s a primary source. Libraries will archive it.

The Internet just wants clicks, and you have to hunt down the real stories. They are there, but it’s like finding a healthy salad at McDonald’s. No one really orders it once they get in the door and see everything else. So, yeah, online, I do end up clicking on the story of Simon Cowell’s love child and getting lost in the muck. I should be reading about the situation in Syria.

I will post this article on the web, but I can guarantee it will get more eyeballs on the printed page. At least here it is more likely to be closely read.

This paper is written by students and professors
I’ve just professionalized the production and distribution of Campus News, but the stories are by your fellow students and faculty. It’s a student paper, for all intents and purposes. Even the wire stories are by student interns at Scripps Howard. They are in Washington, but I’d love to have a similar New York-based student wire news bureau some day. Contact me if you are a college administrator and can make that happen at your campus. Or contact me if you are a student interested in writing for this paper.

Every newspaper has a niche
Each newspaper has its own personality. Campus News has monthly deadlines, so we obviously can’t report breaking news, or it will seem stale by the time it gets to you. Instead, we try to have a mix of useful stories — how to have success as college student — entertainment (slanted to the interests of college students in the Northeast) and then some national stories with topics you should be aware of. For example, one article delves into opinions on “Stand Your Ground” after the Trayvon Martin case.

Why read newspapers?
You’ll find that reading newspapers, over time, gives you a sense of context as newer stories break. You will understand the world better, and the world around you. Also, it will give you the fodder to be a better conversationalist as you move up in the world. You can’t talk about “Family Guy” at some fancy dinner party your future boss will some day have.

A free newspaper is a gift, take it
This newspaper is free. The advertisers essentially pay the printing bill. They buy the ad space. In turn, we only accept ads from organizations that will do no harm to students. No unaccredited college ads, no ads for bars, tobacco products or casinos.

Honor the writers by reading their thoughts. They put their hearts into the stories. They are trying to tell you something useful, or at least trying to entertain.They usually succeed, too.

A newspaper is your friend in quiet times
Grab this paper, fold it up, beat it up, draw on it, and, when you are between classes or waiting for a ride, or have some other quiet time, this loyal friend will still be there for you, eager to keep you company. (Then recycle.)

Your opinion matters
You can send letters and other responses to a newspaper, and they often get published. Try it some time. And, admit it, it is way cooler seeing your thoughts in a printed publication than as some post at the end of a web article.

Look for us on news racks and online in the months ahead. And best of luck on your educational journey.

Art by Chaz Heiber

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