Don’t get me wrong. I love the Internet. Like most college students, I spend a significant amount (probably too much) time surfing Wikipedia and chatting on Facebook. We spend so much time in front of computer screens, doing homework or using social networking sites, that it’s nice to be able to turn off the computer and step away from the screen. My favorite way to do this: reading the newspaper. Reading the news online, even when accompanied by slippers and tea (or a pipe, if you’re old-fashioned) doesn’t conjure up that same feeling of relaxation and satisfaction that holding a printed newspaper does. Unfortunately, facing budget cuts, the Office of Campus Life recently eliminated the funds that once paid for campus subscriptions to The New York Times. No longer can Williams students enjoy headlines with their hash browns at breakfast.
For years, my morning routine has involved toast, fruit and the newspaper. In elementary school I would wake up early so I could have a leisurely breakfast while reading “Peanuts” and “Foxtrot” and studying the weather page of my local paper. Then, after school, I would curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and the crossword puzzle before starting my homework. As I got older, I began to read the actual news content as well. I would start with the more intriguing headlines but would usually end up reading the paper from cover to cover.
For this reason, newspapers have always been a source of comfort to me. When I came to Williams my daily routine changed – new place, new people, new food and new expectations. But I was pleasantly surprised to see The New York Times. For most of my first semester, I enjoyed lounging on the Paresky sofas during breakfast with my familiar tea and newspaper.
When I returned to campus after winter break, the newspaper had suddenly disappeared. I ate breakfast while staring blankly into space. I missed the mental exercise of doing the crossword puzzle (even if I could never make it past the Wednesday one). So it was with great disappointment that I read the WSO post informing me that The New York Times would not be returning to Paresky.
The College probably assumed that most students now prefer to read the news online and would not miss the printed copies. Online news sources update more frequently and are generally free. Such benefits are undeniable, but looking around Paresky, it’s easy to see that the newspaper is being put to good use. Crinkled, already-read copies can be found around Snack Bar and on sofas. This means that for each subscription the College pays for, many students benefit.
It’s more than just aesthetics and comfort. When caught up in the frenzy of classes, homework, labs and parties, it’s easy to feel like Williamstown is the world. Having the newspaper there every day is a constant reminder that a world exists beyond the purple bubble. We’re Williams students – we’re supposed to be smart, active and involved. We’re supposed to have both academic and real-world intelligence. Staying involved in current affairs is part of this. The College gets a good return out of an investment like a newspaper subscription: They pay a relatively small amount of money, and in return get more aware, better-educated students. This doesn’t mean that we all agree blindly with everything that’s printed, but hopefully it encourages us to think critically and become more aware. Most news comes with a slant; it’s still important to be aware that the viewpoint it offers exists.
It doesn’t really matter whether it’s The New York Times. It could be The Wall Street Journal, as some have suggested on WSO. It could be any other reputable national newspaper. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that eliminating the campus newspaper subscription is doing a great disservice to Williams students.
Laurel Hamers ’14 is from Madison, Wis. She lives in Sage B.