By Kevin Ritchie
Students will be picking up free copies of The Toronto Star on campus before the end of the school year.
Last week, Ryerson announced it will be entering into the Star’s campus readership program starting on Wednesday morning, March 28. As many as 1,500 Stars will be dropped on 10 racks throughout campus on weekdays, 300 on Saturdays and 100 on Sundays.
The Eyeopener and other campus papers say the daily will create unfair competition for readership and advertising dollars.
Representatives from The Eyeopener, CESAR, RyeSAC and The Ryersonian have been meeting with Linda Grayson, Ryerson’s v.p. Administration and student affairs since last September, to discuss their concerns about the Star being on campus.
“I very much feel like I was just being strung along,” said Liane Mclarty, The Eyeopener’s general manager.
McLarty said Grayson promised her that clauses protecting The Eyeopener would be included in a contract with the Star, but instead left them out.
“I had faith in her and I don’t really feel that faith has been met.”
McLarty said the daily will compete with The Eyeopener for readership and advertising dollars.
Ryerson has a three-year agreement with the Star, but it will be “reviewed and revised” after one year, the contract reads. If the university finds the Star’s campus readership program is not running smoothly, Grayson said, the Star will have to leave.
Grayson said the trial period allows her to asses how the program is working out, especially with regards to keeping the campus clean.
The Sta is responsible for maintenance of the racks and cleaning up any mess the papers will leave around the racks.
With Ryerson on board, the Star’s campus readership program will have a circulation of 12,000. Papers are already dropped off at York University, Queen’s University, Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Toronto, Seneca College, Durham College, and Georgian College.
Pizza Pizza’s sponsorship covers the readership program’s expenses, said Loreen Lalonde, director of the Star’s campus readership program.
The readership program started at York University in September 1999. Once the Star moved in, staff at excalibur—one of York’s student newspapers—noticed their racks were being replaced by the Star’s blue mega-racks.
After threatening legal action, excalibur editor Shawn Jeffords said thee racks “mysteriously” returned.
Since the Star showed up at York, the excalibur has cut its circulation from 17,000 to 15,000. Jeffords told The Eyeopener in November that the cut was because of a decrease in the weekly’s pick up rate.
That’s why McLarty wants a clause in the contract that ensure The Eyeopener’s racks will not be moved to make way for Canada’s largest daily.
Grayson said rack location was not a contract issue at Ryerson, but adds The Eyeopener’s racks “will stay where they are.”
The Star also agreed, in the contract, not to target the advertising base of the campus press through special advertising and editorial sections printed only for papers dropped at schools.
McLarty is concerned that after three years, this no-special-sections agreement will be renegotiated once the paper is able to build a large readership base among postsecondary students.
But Lalonde guarantees the daily will not target advertisers through advertising split-runs—ever.
One full-page black and white ad costs $28,000 in the Star. “It doesn’t make sense for advertisers to pay that when they could buy [the same thing in] all the college and university papers for significantly less,” Lalonde said.
McLarty is also worried the Star will tear into The Eyeopener’s readership because students do not have time to read both papers.
But John Miller, director of Ryerson’s school of journalism’s newspaper program, said students will still pick up campus papers because they are the only source for campus news.
The Ryersonian’s stake in the Star deal is significantly less The Eyeopener’s. The RYersonian is funded by the school of journalism and prints half the number of issue The Eyeopener does. The Eyeopener is an independent publication funded by student fees and advertising revenue.
“I think both The Eyeopener and The Ryersonian have csst quite a good watch-dog eye on events on the Ryerson campus,” Miller said. “There hasn’t been any convincing evidence [the Star] will impact on the campus press.”