Tag Archives: newspapers

All the News, In Print

My household recently started getting the print edition of our local newspaper again. I know what you’re thinking: Really? Print? In 2014? When everyone in the house is fortunate enough to have a device on which they could read the electronic version (if they were so inclined)?

I’m old enough that I’ve spent most of my life getting the news from a print newspaper until relatively recently. When I moved into an apartment with friends halfway through college, ordering up daily newspaper delivery made it seem like we were truly adults despite a diet consisting mostly of boxed mac and cheese. My partner and I kept getting the paper delivered when we moved to graduate school and jobs, even as the paper got somewhat smaller and slimmer. And then it suddenly seemed like too much — all that paper to haul downstairs to the recycling every week, especially on the weekends, with sections we didn’t even read. The newspaper website had the same content and didn’t cost anything, so we canceled our subscription. Eventually the paywalls went up so we bought a digital subscription.

And there we stayed until recently. About two weeks ago, to be exact. What changed my mind? My kid is finishing up middle school this year, and I wanted to see if he would pick up and read the newspaper if it was left physically around the house. He could read it digitally, as do my partner and I, but he doesn’t. We tell him about big news stories, and he sometimes has to find a newspaper article or editorial for school, but that’s about it for his encounters with the paper. And since we don’t tend to watch the news on TV, he doesn’t have any regular exposure to news other than what he seeks out (while he reads a lot online, he tends to gravitate more to video game news than current events news).

It’s been really interesting to go back to the print newspaper. Some things I’ve noticed:

  • I now read or skim a larger number of articles than I used to when I read the paper solely online, and in (some) sections that I often would more or less skip. But that also takes longer, and the result is that I typically can’t get through the entire paper at breakfast and have to leave some sections for the evening.
  • It’s much, much easier to browse through the newspaper in its physical form. This is good for my kid, because his science teacher has requested that he and his classmates each find a science article in the paper every week. The images are better too — there are more of them, and you don’t have to click to embiggen like on the website (which often means I don’t take the time for that click).
  • In general I hate advertising, but I appreciate the ads much more in the paper paper than online. It seems like there are ads that don’t make it to the website — mainly political ads — which is interesting. And the juxtaposition of news and ad content can be fascinating: my favorite was a recent story about New York City’s “poor doors” — an awful proposal for separate entrances in apartment buildings with both market-rate and affordable housing — right across from a full-page spread advertising a new luxury building. I know these kinds of contrasts occur on the website too, but I find it easier to tune out the ads online so I guess I don’t notice them as much.
  • Some of the non-news content that the paper (still!) runs was a complete surprise. Weather I can see the value in, though it seems like the weather’s so changeable now that even printing the forecast the night before could be of limited use. But TV listings! For all of the channels! Movie times! At all of the theaters! Who knew they’re still in the paper? I’ve been racking my brain for a use case for those listings — it seems unlikely to me that there are folks out there who’d only have access to or would rather get that information from the print newspaper.

All of this means that I’m suddenly finding myself very nostalgic for the age of paper newspapers in our academic libraries. I know they’re impractical for a whole range of reasons (so I’m not really serious about their return), but I do think they’re better for students in a number of ways. Yes, our students can browse and search the websites for their local newspapers, and they’ll often get the full text and at least some of the photos that accompany the article. But they lose the context provided by the layout of the physical page and the section and location in which the articles appear. And if they use a library database to search multiple newspapers simultaneously they’ll get lots of content but even less context: no images, and no visual cues as to what audience the newspaper seeks. I can’t imagine that print newspapers will ever come back to academic libraries, but I wonder what we can do to bring the positive aspects of the print experience to our students’ use of online newspapers?

Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts

A Beloit Mindset Moment

As part of our Library event for incoming freshmen we organized a scavenger hunt. They are pretty popular right now, and putting one together takes some thought and effort. But we got the participants to get around the entire library, visit a few service areas, try our text-a-librarian and cell phone tour services, and overall it went pretty well. The students seemed to enjoy it, and we offered a few nice gifts. But clearly we aren’t able to completely put ourselves into the mindset of the college freshman, and as a result one student thought we had an unfair question. Seems we asked the students to record the name of a movie for which we have a poster hanging in our media services area. To find the right poster the students were told to look for Humphrey Bogart. According to this student, she had never heard of him – so how could she know who to look for (this is overlooking his name is on the poster in 12″ letters). My colleagues and I were a bit taken back by that – could you be 18 and not know Bogie? Then again, when the class of 2014 was born in 1992, he was already dead for 35 years. Next time, we’ll just go with the poster for the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Every college student knows that guy, right?

Here’s An Idea for an Experiment – No Academic Library for Two Years

I read an anecdote shared by a librarian from brand name, elite 4-year college, about a faculty member who said something along the lines of “Our students graduate and become incredibly successful. They haven’t had much research instruction, and they aren’t particularly good at conducting research, but they are successful. So if that’s the end outcome, why bother with the research instruction?” How do you respond to a comment like that? I’m not sure, but what concerns me is that the librarians will buy into that line of thinking, and just give up on instruction all together. Why bother if the students end up at Wall Street brokerage firms with six-figure incomes? Is that how we measure success? [quite possible the faculty member simply means “success” at whatever the students aspire to]

The next logical step from that line of thinking is why bother having a library at all? Just close the library and cancel all the subscriptions. Allow faculty to use the library budget to get personal subscriptions to the journals they want. Use library funds to buy every student an e-book reader with a quota of a few thousand dollars to buy whatever books and paywall content they want. If after two years of no library or librarians the results show that students still graduate and still become incredibly successful, that tells us that the library never made a difference in the first place – other then for faculty and administrators to gush about the library as the “heart of the institution” – and as a good stop on the campus tour. I wonder if it makes a difference that a faculty observation like this one comes from an elite, brand name institution where the students arrive with many lifestyle advantages that will contribute to their post-college success. What about the institutions, like Chicago State University, where student failure is the norm? I wonder what faculty there have to say about the need for research instruction? Do they have time to think about it at all?

What’s the Biggest Mistake You’ve Made As a Leader?

It’s a long road and hard work becoming an effective leader, whether you are responsible for the vision and direction of a library, a single unit or program within the library that needs leadership for it to survive, or leading your colleagues in an association effort. Along the way you’ll likely make some mistakes. Hopefully one of them one won’t be the “big mistake” that shatters your leadership potential. Best of all, if you are new on the leadership path – or if you’ve been traveling that path a long time – you can avoid the big mistake by studying the lessons learned by other leaders.

A good opportunity for that type of learning can be discovered from Harvard Business Review’s video piece on “the biggest mistake a leader can make” which features a mix of academics and executives sharing what he or she thinks is that biggest mistake. Here’s a quick list of what I gleaned from each expert – but watch the video – it’s just over 7 minutes – there’s more good advice to be had there:

* Putting self-interest before the interests of the organization – leadership is about responsibility for the staff and stakeholders and putting yourself ahead of them is a fatal error.

* Betraying trust – if you fail here nothing else matters.

* Being certain – once you think you know how it all works there is reluctance to change; great leaders understand the power of uncertainty.

* Not living up to values – if you espouse values and fail to live up up to them you will rapidly be found out by followers.

* Overly enamored with vision – becoming single minded and obsessed with a vision makes a leader blind to other opportunities and possibilities.

* Personal arrogance or hubris – confuses the success of the organization with his or her individual persona; leads to the making of huge mistakes.

* Acting too fast – leaders need to step back and think before they act, and seek out advice from subordinates; re-think the vision/plan and then act.

* Failure to be consistent – followers need to know their leaders are authentic and predictable; if you are pleasant one day and a monster the next it destroys trust.

* Lack of self-reflection – leaders need to constantly review their own behavior and honestly contemplate what affect they have on others; good leaders are self-aware, learn from their mistakes and improve.

In my leadership positions I’ve made any number of these mistakes at one time or another; you can only hope to learn from a bad experience. But I’ve worked very hard never to betray trust, and I think that would be the ultimate leadership mistake. What about you? What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, what big mistake have you seen a leader make or which one on this list is the worst sin for you?

Some Writing Advice Worth Your Attention

I hope your regular reading regimen includes the Chronicle. If I had to guess I’d say it’s the most read non-library publication for the typical academic librarian. I’m also guessing many academic librarians will only go and read a Chronicle article or essay if someone else tells them they should go read it. As an academic librarian blogger I try to avoid leaning too heavily on the Chronicle or Inside Higher Ed as a source. It would be all to easy to do that – and then I’d just end up writing about whatever other librarians are already reading and discussing anyway – not too challenging or exciting.

But this essay on improving your writing gave some good advice, and as an academic librarian blogger one thing in particular resonated with me. Number nine on the list of ten reads: Your most profound thoughts are often wrong. That’s a profound thought right there. I often find myself second guessing many of my blog posts because I question if I’m making sense or effectively communicating my message. Then again I’ll go ahead and post them anyway thinking I’ve come up with something profound only to realize it wasn’t something all that great and that it didn’t make anyone think twice anyway. There’s been talk of the death of blogging for years now. But blogs persist even though many librarians show a preference for sharing their thoughts – as much as that is possible – with a facebook or twitter update. Perhaps in those mediums, since what’s written quickly passes on and fades, there’s not much need to think about whether what’s being written is profound or possibly wrong. With 140 characters, it may not matter much. An exception – when a simple tweet sets off a strong reaction with a blogger. So even though there’s a good chance my profound thoughts are wrong I’ll likely continue to share some of them with you. One of the best things about blogging at ACRLog is receiving comments that help me to re-think what I thought was profound and become more clear about my thinking and writing. Not an easy task.

Top Newspapers For Higher Ed Reporting

It’s no secret that the newspaper industry is in trouble. Circulation of print editions is way down. Advertising revenue is even further down. And Tribune Co. just declared bankruptcy. The Christian Science Monitor recently announced it would publish only one print edition a week. Nearly every newspaper is struggling to transform itself for an online world where the next generation seeks out its news. The prognosis for newspapers is not good. That’s too bad. I depend on many different newspapers (mostly the online editions) for keeping up to date with higher education. So many different newspapers around the country are constantly reporting on local and regional higher education news and events. Some report on national trends. Both the Chronicle and InsideHigherEd develop many of their articles from news originally reported in metropolitan newspapers. For example the Chronicle recently reported on faculty who were concerned about students using ChaCha’s answer service for cheating. That story first appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer (and the Chronicle’s article referenced it).

But all newspapers are not created equal. When it comes to reporting higher education news some are better than others. In the past it was not uncommon for metropolitan papers to have dedicated reporters for education or possibly just higher education. In today’s environment that would be a luxury for most daily newspapers. However, some daily papers are real standouts when it comes to reporting higher education news. In this post I share some of my top picks for reporting higher education news. My top five are:

The New York Times – Perhaps no surprise here. The NYT consistently delivers articles about higher education, from breaking news about issues such as student loans or the latest trend on campus to more unique stories about special higher education programs or institutions with unique students. Their regular Education Life supplement has no equal.

The Boston Globe – When I’m on the lookout for stories to add over at Kept-Up Academic Librarian I will always take a look at an article from the Boston Globe. This paper provides excellent coverage of the higher education industry in the city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts, but it also is a great source for news about national developments and trends. This paper will have several articles about higher education in any given week. For example, it recently reported on how second-tier IHEs will be pursuing students in China to bolster their enrollment. The Globe is one paper that still has a reporter, Tracy Jan, who follows the higher education beat.

USA Today – Some of you may not equate this paper with stellar reporting but it certainly does a good job of staying on top of trends in higher education. USA Today may also be the front runner when it comes to offering a series of stories on a particular trend in higher education, and it occasionally offers some pretty decent investigative reporting. For example, USA Today recently examined institutions that improve their athletes GPAs and graduation rates by putting them into special majors populated largely with easy courses that provide the athletes with no marketable skills.

Philadelphia Inquirer – While its higher education reporting is not as strong as the above papers I think my local paper has definitely improved its higher education reporting over the last few years, especially since they eliminated their education beat reporter a few years ago. Sure, this paper tends to have a more regional focus, but occasionally it will report on a trend I haven’t seen reported elsewhere. Or it might have a series of reports that is supplemented with a variety of multimedia. One such example is a recent series about high school seniors and their college application experience.

Washington Post – The Post has been a consistent performer over the years although I have noticed a decline in the number of higher education articles being reported in the last year or so. But like the NYT, the quality of the reporting is always high, and the Post may be the best at reporting on how higher education is faring on Capitol Hill. The Post is perhaps the only other paper besides the NYT that has a higher education supplement for higher education, and their education columnist Jay Matthews will occasionally focus on higher education.

So those are my favorites. You may disagree with some of my choices. There’s no question that a few other papers also do a good job of reporting about higher education. The Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor are all quite good. Even the Wall Street Journal has turned into a pretty good source for higher education news since making more of its content freely accessible. If there is any one concern I have about the ongoing availability of higher education newspaper content it is that more papers may choose to allow only their subscribers to reach full-text articles. Let’s hope the trend is towards more access to full text. But just to be on the safe side, when you find a good article you will want to visit again, consider saving it to something like FURL just for safe keeping.

If you are a regular reader of the Chronicle and InsideHigherEd that’s a good way to keep up with what’s going on in higher education – and as academic librarians shouldn’t we be well informed about the news of the day for the industry in which we are employed. Just paying attention to what’s going on at your campus without putting it into perspective of the larger picture may simply leave you with too narrow a vision of where academic librarianship fits into the overall higher education enterprise. As it was so well stated in the introduction to the recent CLIR report No Brief Candle: Reconceiving the Academic Library for the 21st Century “the future of the research library cannot be considered apart from the future of the academy as a whole.” Fortunately there are some excellent resources beyond the Chronicle and InsideHigherEd that can help you develop a regular feed of news and information about higher education developments at the national, regional and local levels.