I’ve received several e-mails today from folks who saw my quote in today’s New York Times and wanted to commiserate with me about my observation that, on the one occasion when I had an opportunity to teach freshmen journalism students, I discovered that very few of them had previously read a newspaper.
It’s true — I’ve got no complaints with the Times reporter, Richard Pérez-Peña, who quoted me accurately. And I didn’t think I was saying anything controversial, given that I was talking about 18-year-olds. But the point I was hoping to make was slightly different from the way it came out.
At the time I was teaching that class, in the fall of 2007, I made it a requirement that my students pick up a Boston Globe every morning. It was not an onerous task — the Globe was distributed free on campus. By the end of the semester, quite a few students told me they enjoyed the experience, and intended to keep reading the paper.
Then the Globe ended free distribution. I don’t think it’s a contradiction for me to say that the Globe, in general, should be charging more for its print edition, but that to stop freebies for college students was not a smart move.
These days there are so few Globes on campus that I would have a hard time even requiring everyone to buy a copy.
Tuesday follow-up. Peter Porcupine asks, Why the Globe and not the Herald? To which I offer several answers: (1) the Globe was distributed free on campus; the Herald wasn’t; (2) even now, it’s harder to find a Herald on campus than a Globe; (3) I wanted my students reading a metropolitan daily characteristic of such papers across the country. Despite my high esteem for the Phoenix, for instance, I didn’t require my students to read that, either.