Star Tribune back, dean of students picks up the tab

By Emma WestRasmus

For many Macalester students, the Twin Cities is merely a bubble from Summit Ave. to St. Clair Ave., and the few blocks in between. But administrators hope that the presence of the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune newspaper on campus this year will help to bring the gaze of Mac students to the local news taking place around them.The Office of the Dean of Students is responsible for leading the charge to get the newspaper onto campus and is covering the cost of the paper for the 2010-2011 academic year. One-hundred twenty-five copies of the Star Tribune are distributed from the Campus Center and the Leonard Center lobby every weekday.

According to Dean of Students Jim Hoppe, the Star Tribune approached the college at the end of the summer to participate in a new college readership program the paper was starting, and Hoppe jumped at the “really favorable prices and really favorable terms” of the deal.

The college had been hoping to get a local paper on campus for several years after the Pioneer Press, the St. Paul paper that Mac subscribed to, cancelled its student readership program, Hoppe said.

“We’d approached the Star Tribune at the time to inquire about putting them on the racks as well just so we’d have a local paper,” said Hoppe. “But the price was just too expensive.”

Before deciding to purchase a subscription, Hoppe consulted Macalester College Student Government President Owen Truesdell ’11, who echoed the attractive low costs of the college readership program as a driving force behind Macalester signing-up.

“[The Star Tribune] also does a lot of the logistical work” around the distribution and clean-up of the papers, Truesdell said, including the daily removal of unread papers.

The Tribune’s college readership program was the brainchild and “indirect result” of new Macalester trustee Mike Klingensmith, publisher and CEO of Star Tribune Media Company, LLC, Klingensmith said.

Klingensmith, the parent of a 2010 Mac graduate, was eager to expand the Star Tribune’s readership to the Macalester campus.

“I was disappointed when I would visit campus and I didn’t see [The Star Tribune] over there,” Klingensmith said. “I was anxious to get our newspaper in the hands of young, thoughtful readers.”

After taking over at the Star Tribune in January 2010, Klingensmith revised the college readership program to make it more affordable and suggested to the paper’s Circulation Department that they contact Macalester. By agreeing to subscribe, Macalester became the first college to participate under the new program.

“We wanted it to go to the best, first,” Klingensmith said.

According to Klingensmith, the program was designed for “smaller, top-tier colleges” and is not open to larger universities in Minnesota such as the U of M that already have a large base of single copy paper sales.

“We wanted to avoid cannibalizing the sale we already have on big campuses,” Klingensmith said.

Klingensmith believes that the presence of the Star Tribune on campus complements Mac’s values of connecting to the community, which he cites as “a focus of the college’s mission.”

“It’s important not just to have a view of world of events from the Times, but to be aware of local news, too, from the leading paper in the Twin Cities.”

Truesdell agrees, noting that having a local paper on campus “can introduce students who don’t come from Minnesota or the Midwest to a uniquely Minnesotan source of news and information.”

MCSG already sponsors the 200 daily copies of the New York Times available to the campus community at a cost of $7,500 per semester. Though neither Truesdell nor Hoppe had the exact figures for the semester cost of the Tribune subscription, Truesdell said it was substantially less than the Times subscription and estimated it to be several hundred dollars per semester.

According to Hoppe, the Office of the Dean of Students will reevaluate the program at the end of the semester, but would commit to supporting the subscription for the duration of the academic year with the thought that MCSG would pick up the cost after the initial year.

“We decided that our office would sponsor it for this year and then if it goes well we’d talk with MCSG to see how we would handle sponsorship in the future,” Hoppe said.

“If the rates stay the same and we don’t get bad feedback, MCSG could support this indefinitely,” Truesdell said.

Though administrators are unsure of the campus reaction to the addition of the Tribune to the media available to students, Truesdell believes no news may be good news. According to Truesdell, there were no comments either in favor or opposed to the Tribune in a recent campus-wide survey of a range of issues conducted by MCSG.

“We got nothing about the Strib in the general comments,” Truesdell said. “And we get virtually any comment people can levy.”

Though Hoppe was not aware of the general student feelings about the presence of the paper on campus, he believes the paper has been well received.

“I got two thank you notes about it,” Hoppe said. “I usually don’t get thank you notes.”

Sara Staszak contributed to the reporting for this article.