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Lebovitz '14: Diversify my options

At the Sharpe Refectory and Verney-Woolley Dining Hall, Brown students are privy to a wide assortment of means to get their news. They can pick up a copy of the New York Times, the Providence Journal and the finest publication of them all, The Herald. For those more visually inclined, "Good Morning America" or CNN's cornucopia of morning programs are constantly blaring from Ratty televisions. Yet, for all the news students have access to, Brown has surprisingly large holes in its offerings.

The University seems to plan its daily publication strategy around checking off three simple spheres. These include college news, including daily, weekly and monthly publications like the Brown Noser; local interest news, filled by default by the Providence Journal; and national news, covered by the New York Times. The limited number of publications for local news makes sense. After all, the Journal is the only major paper in town, and Rhode Island is by far the nation's smallest state and therefore would theoretically have the smallest amount of news. On the other hand, national news is obviously more varied and complicated - yet we have only one paper to cover this vast space. While the Grey Lady is a fantastic paper and does a good job covering everything a Brown student needs to know, it is not perfect. Its business coverage is weak compared to other papers, and it only provides one perspective on world news that is too extensive for one paper to do it justice. It would therefore make sense for the University to provide its students with more than one national paper.

One might think the University would provide the Wall Street Journal, the nation's most-read paper, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Furthermore, it is the country's pre-eminent source of business news and would perfectly cover one of the Times' biggest weaknesses. Why we don't have the Wall Street Journal is a bit flabbergasting and extremely surprising at a school where the number of economics concentrators has doubled in the last decade. It would make sense for the University to provide a paper that appeals to one of its biggest academic constituencies.

Any reason for not having the Journal lacks logical support. Purchasing the Journal might be expensive, and given the current economic climate, the University should absolutely be focused on bolstering our facilities and getting us even more bands for Spring Weekend over trivial complaints. Arguing against the Journal due to prohibitive cost, though, is vastly overestimating the price of 100 subscriptions to the paper. The University could spread the cost to student tuitions and out of faculty salaries for cents per person, and its tangible results would dull the sting of a more expensive Brown. Another possibility for why the University might not carry the Journal is that Brown might be playing to the University's inherent liberal bias. But if Brown was really that focused on playing the student body's bias, then why does the Internet Protocol TV offer only CNN and Fox News and not MSNBC, which would, according to the initial argument, be the most popular channel?

I'm sure that I could find a live stream of MSNBC through some dubious online means and could probably browbeat a friend to loan me his copy of the Journal, but the point remains. Brown has gaping holes in the content it provides its students. Equally troubling, the lack of the Wall Street Journal and of MSNBC speaks to the larger problem of a University media bias that seems predicated on no particular policy. What else explains the random holes?

The University could resolve this news deficiency easily. Investing in a large number of subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal is a good first step. Second, Brown might consider purchasing a mass subscription to an international paper, perhaps the U.K.'s the Guardian. Brown models itself as an international university where various cultures mix together to gain new perspectives, so why not have a paper that can help facilitate those viewpoints? 

If expanding the University's library is too bold a first step, the University could even just expand its magazine collection in the Rockefeller Library. The fact remains that the University is a place for education, and it is failing its students in providing them with current affairs.

 

Chip Lebovitz '14 just wants to read more. He can be reached at 

charles_lebovitz@brown.edu.  


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