November 9, 2023 | OPINION | By Zeke Lloyd
Last fall, I took a trip to the University of California, Santa Barbara with Colorado College’s Model United Nations travel team. On a golden afternoon, I asked a student about their school newspaper. Their publication, the student told me, was called The Daily Nexus and could be found all over. I just needed to look for the small boxes nestled around their nearly 1000-acre campus.
Exactly where any of them were, though, they couldn’t tell me.
And upon arriving at the University of Virginia for a Model UN conference last spring, I found The Cavalier Daily all over the place. Newspapers were easy to find, pick up and read on a campus of over 1,500 acres.
Except no one was reading. Two different campuses in two states on opposite ends of the country. The same phenomenon. Newspapers everywhere, but no one reading the news.
In the last three years, I’ve worked in several different roles with The Catalyst. During my freshman year, I wrote for the Sports section. Then, for the next two years, I held various editorial positions with the newspaper. Now, I’m involved with Cutler Publications, the independent not-for-profit that funds on-campus student publications.
The struggles of students at these two universities also face The Catalyst: How do we get people to read the newspaper?
We have a student body made up of high-achieving individuals – a mix of athletes, academics and engaged community organizers. There is productive dialogue in the classroom and dining halls.
Moreover, we have a great newspaper. The organization employs roughly 4% of the student body and produces over twenty articles on a weekly basis. The Catalyst publishes both in print and online, with active social media accounts promoting student work throughout the Block.
A primed student body and a reliable newspaper, the perfect recipe for engagement.
Or so I thought. The question baffled me for years. Why does no one read the newspaper?
The ironic tragedy is well-hidden. Students’ draw towards constant extracurricular engagement is responsible both for the newspaper’s remarkable quality and its general lack of readership.
We are each absorbed. Our obligations consume us. And then, before we know it, we’re out of time. The day is done and no one knows what we did. It was our day and no one else’s.
And the last thing any of us need is another commitment, so reading the newspaper slips through the cracks.
I can’t ask my fellow students to engage with the newspaper for the sake of some higher cause. I believe newspapers are the backbone of free, democratic societies.
But that’s not why you should read The Catalyst.
You should read The Catalyst because it makes us all a little bit less alone. That’s why we have a newspaper – so we can share stories with each other. The events of one student’s crazy day can make it into the Features section. A team’s accomplishments can find their way into the Sports section. Your most impassioned sentiments can end up in the Opinion section. The Catalyst is a 16-page canvas. Let’s fill it with students’ stories.
As we grow and change as people, and as a collective entity, The Catalyst will never ask us to water things down or to make our writing more palatable. It will remain ours, the place for us to be who we are and share it with other people.
Here, a lack of readership produces a unique tragedy which those university students will never have to face.
Isolation. Our school is too small. We can’t overlook the importance of common spaces. Student life is already so overwhelming. Let’s bring it to the table. Let’s put it on the page. Let’s fill this canvas.