Last November, copies of USA TODAY, The
New York Times and The Detroit News began to pop up in select
locations around campus. These papers, part of USA TODAY/Gannett
Collegiate Readership Program, were free — a trial period in
which the University was offered the papers without charge.
Recently, the newspapers have made a return appearance, though
under significant different terms — funds from the Michigan
Student Assembly, LSA-Student Government and other sources are
being used to fund the program. This program, while a valued
service to some, exists at the expense of other, locally-oriented
news services and wrongly uses the funding of student government to
open up markets for Gannett and USA Today.
While The New York Times remains independent, USA TODAY is the
flagship newspaper of Gannett Co. Gannett is a corporation with
enormous holdings worldwide, owning 100 daily newspapers in the
United States, 22 television stations and dozens of websites.
Distributed outside of a number of large lecture halls, anyone
can pick up one of these papers, but that does not mean that they
are free. On the contrary, MSA relies on student fees to fill its
coffers and fund student programs — programs that now include
the purchase of hundreds of Gannett-owned newspapers.
In times like the present, when tighter budgets call for more
discerning attention to spending, it is shameful that student
leaders would pour funding into Gannett, when other important
student groups have been made to do more with less — or
worse, been eliminated altogether.
Additionally, with so many local and regional newspapers
offering excellent in-depth coverage and concern for community
issues, it is unfortunate that student government has been unable
to support these local alternatives over the homogenized content of
papers like USA TODAY.
MSA’s oversight of the local option is hardly out of the
ordinary. The allocation of these and other funds came at the
exclusion of the Ann Arbor Tenants’ Union, an organization
which for years played a valuable role in maintaining the quality
and safety of off-campus housing.
The student body should be highly critical of the manner in
which its elected representatives utilize their limited resources.
Though the intentions of Gannett in providing cheap and accessible
access to its products may appear borne out of a desire to
contribute to higher education, it is in reality nothing more than
a move to expand its own market share and put pressure on its local
competition. A variety of media sources is necessary for a vibrant
and intellectually diverse university community.