POSNER: For NYTimes access, online

Out of Line

Ask me about the drawer in my room stuffed with old newspapers. Ask me about the time I dressed up as a newsmagazine for Halloween.

PosnerCMy point is, I love the news; I love The New York Times in particular. So when the Times went missing from Berkeley Dining Hall — and every dining hall, I later found out — at the end of last semester, I was dismayed. Yale has over 20 billion dollars in its endowment, and I figured that money should at least guarantee students a chance to read “all the news that’s fit to print.”

Still, recent news that hard copies of the Times would return to the dining halls temporarily came to me as bittersweet and the arrival of Monday’s printed paper didn’t feel as satisfying as I had expected. That’s because the reinstatement of the Times came with the news that negotiations to make a campus-wide online subscription available were stalling.

Yale students are pretty well read, journalistically speaking. The New York Times might not be the paper of choice for all students — our campus is full of vocal advocates for The Wall Street Journal, plus fans of newsmagazines like The Economist and The Atlantic — but it’s still a worthwhile investment for a campus full of conscientious young adults. Though the Yale College Council’s 2010 survey suggests the majority of students didn’t read the print edition on a regular basis, it’s clear that there is a dedicated readership on campus. At least as far as I saw, the stack of papers made available in dining halls was usually gone by lunch.

But The New York Times is dense, and the paper waste is extensive. Supplying the dining halls with a few hundred copies daily means perpetuating an environmentally unfriendly practice that we could easily do without. Sure, it’s unrealistic to claim that Yale’s own consumption of the Times makes much of a contribution to deforestation or waste production, and cutting back won’t save the world. But as a university that avows concern for the environment and progressive measures to ensure a green campus, putting an end to our mass consumption of print media is a symbolic gesture that conveys commitment to our principles.

The YCC and Yale University seem to understand this, as indicated by their efforts to secure an online subscription to the paper, which otherwise limits nonsubscribers to 10 articles per month.  Yet according to an article in the News this week, negotiations have continued for several months, prompting administrators to renew the print subscription for now. Several months seems a ridiculous length of time to spend negotiating online news availability, particularly when this comes as a practical business opportunity for the Times. Print circulation of the paper is dropping while digital readership climbs. Introducing Yale students to digital Times subscriptions means an increased likelihood that they will choose to be online Times subscribers after graduation. A campus-wide online subscription would mean universal access to the paper, rather than limiting readership to the number of copies available in each dining hall.

Dedicated Yale readers, including those interviewed this week in the News, argue that the digital news experience isn’t comparable to the printed word — and I agree. Reading the Times in its tangible form is for many a morning ritual, and the crossword is far better in print. But the luxury of the printed newspaper fails to justify the environmental repercussions of a print subscription for the entire campus. As students, it’s fair that we request school-sponsored access to international news. Our paper-verse-digital preferences, though, shouldn’t supersede concerns of environmental sustainability.

It’s nice to have the Times back at Yale, but I’d rather see it on campus in digital form. Yale needs to realize both the moral and practical value of an online subscription, and act decisively to make clear its commitment to a policy of reducing waste.

Caroline Posner is a freshman in Berkeley College. Her columns run on Thursdays. Contact her at caroline.posner@yale.edu.

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