Should we ask students to subscribe to a newspaper?
Every day, I find articles in the newspaper that relate to my Business Ethics course and the real-world cases they are doing. So much so, that I’m considering using a newspaper in lieu of a textbook (there’s an OER textbook). I can’t seem to get access to current articles through the library (only old ones) and students can’t “browse” the current issues from the library, they have to search for specific issues. That’s not ideal.
Let me start by explaining what I read and how I read it. Personally, I like the New York Times Today’s Paper App. It’s actually not the phone app – it’s a browser app. Every day you get the newspaper in exactly the format it appears in print, broken into sections like Front Page, International, National, Business, Opinion, etc).
I believe that these “Daily Paper” apps (provided by many major newspapers) are far superior to going to the website for the newspaper. Here’s why. In one sitting, you can find all the news of the day (well, the news of yesterday), read what you are interested in, and move on with your life. The daily paper apps do not draw you into click-bait rabbit holes where your entire day disappears and you ultimately land in celebrity sites of questionable quality. The daily paper apps also give you reasonably balanced perspective because you see ALL the news stories from the day and not just those that your filter bubble sends you to as you click on stories of interest. If you don’t want to be influenced by opinions, don’t read the Opinions section. If you are primarily interested in Business, read the business section. By browsing the paper from the daily app versions, you can easily choose what you read.
Let me backtrack now and explain how I choose sources for the articles and videos I use in class. There is a really fabulous Media Bias Chart 4.0 created by Ad Fontes Media.
Thousands of articles from multiple news sources are rated for factuality and liberal/conservative bias.Then the news sources are plotted on the Media Bias Chart. By the way, you can read more about how the Media Bias Chart project is moving forward with greater transparency here.
The Green Box
When I choose articles and videos for class, I try to stay in the green box of the Media Bias Chart:
This green box contains the least biased and most factual sources of news. The box includes sources like The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, PBS, The BBC, The Christian Science Monitor, Fortune, and The Guardian.
Maybe it is more interesting to share a few of the sources that do not fall in the green box: The Huffington Post, MSNBC, Mother Jones, the Daily Beast, The Washington Times, and Fox News.
Is my screening method perfect? Probably not. However, it seems better to have some kind of screening process for quality of the news than no screening process at all.
Unfortunately, the result of this is that some of the top quality daily newspapers: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, are all behind paywalls. I actually think it’s great that we are paying for these newspapers (they need financial support and you know we all hate the damned ads). However, it’s super hard to share current news with students when every link takes them to a paywall. Ugh.
To require students to have a particular newspaper for the semester would cost about $1/week (a cost of somewhere between $5 and $18 per semester per student). Just in today’s Sunday New York Times, there were four articles relevant to the Business Ethics class I teach:
- Quietly Hoarding Millions of Faces Culled From Web – How ethical is the sharing of databases of faces without consent from the people whose faces are in the databases?
- How White Nationalists Rationalize a DNA Test With Surprising Results – the use of DNA tests like 23andme and Ancestry to prove “whiteness” in order to stay in online hate groups
- The Week in Business: Amazon Won’t Let the Robots Take Over – Amazon’s re-education plan: is it just good PR or good business?
- Wait. Elevating Women Means I Have to Pay Them? – Is it ethical to ask women to provide advice to your non-profit, and not pay them for that advice?
Honestly, I’d include the links to these articles, but how many of you could actually read them without hitting the paywall? Without a subscription, you can read maybe read the articles if you have access to an academic or public library account with digital access AND you’re willing to go log into that library AND you’re willing to search for it AND you’re willing to try again next week if it’s not indexed yet (likely).
I want my students to be able to browse the news of the day, learn relevant information, and share it in our discussions and their analysis of cases. We have covered or are about to cover every one of these issues in those four articles in the eight weeks of class. This was ONE DAY of the news and there were four relevant articles. When students can’t access quality news, what they find instead is low-quality news. This news is often very biased and of questionable factualness.
In conclusion, I think I am deciding that the $1/week is worth the cost to students. But then the question is which paper? Here are the main three with links to the daily paper apps and the education discounts.
New York Times
Education price is $1/week, NYTimes Education Subscription
NYTimes Today’s Paper App (requires login)
The Washington Post
Education price is $5 every 4 weeks or $59/year, The Washington Post Education Subscription
Amazon Prime price is $59/year, The Washington Post Amazon Prime Subscription
The Washington Post Today’s Paper App (requires login)
The Wall Street Journal
Education membership to The Wall Street Journal is $1/week, The Wall Street Journal Education Subscription
“Print” version of The Wall Street Journal
I’ve tried all three papers, and I have to say that I am either personally biased towards the experience I’m used to (which is reading NYTimes on iPad) or it’s just the best experience.
I’m now subscribed to two of the three newspapers as I recently had my “this is the last straw” moment when I couldn’t read a Washington Post article this morning.
If you believe that there is too much crap news out there, but are not actually paying for news, give that some thought. If your students continue to use questionable sources, but those are the only sources not behind paywalls, shouldn’t we teach them to value and support better news sources?
What do you think, is it unreasonable to ask students to subscribe to a newspaper for a semester? How would you decide which one?