The Keene Sentinel announced that it would begin offering free digital subscriptions to Keene State students for the first time ever on Aug. 25.
Managing Editor for Audience Development at the Sentinel, Jack Rooney, who wrote the article announcing the plan, said in an interview that the decision was informed by recognizing cost as a barrier for students.
“It was really the end of last school year and then over the summer this year that we did a little brainstorming and found room within our operating budget under [the Newspapers in Education program],” Rooney said.
According to the Times of Northwest Indiana, the Newspapers in Education program was created in the 1930s under the name “Living Textbook Program”. The earliest publications to sponsor the program were The New York Times, and The Milwuakee Journal.
Rooney said in the past the Sentinel used the program to deliver physical copies of the newspaper to elementary, middle and high schools to develop assignments around the paper. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and classes went remote or hybrid… we stopped getting a lot of requests for physical copies in the classroom,” Rooney said.
“As the pandemic has eased we have started doing a little more of that, but we still have a little reserve in that fund [that allows us] to pay for digital subscriptions to Keene State,” Rooney explained, noting that a digital subscription is less costly than a physical subscription.
A traditional digital subscription to the Sentinel costs $19.60 a month. In 2022, the Sentinel offered a discounted digital subscription to Keene State students at a rate of $5 a month. According to Rooney, there were no signups for the discounted plan. As of Aug. 30, following the launch of the free subscription plan, they received over 65 signups.
Keene State College alum James Rinker, who now serves as the Digital Community Engagement Journalist at the Sentinel, said access to local journalism as a student is important. “As a student I really liked knowing what was happening in the community around me,” Rinker said. “I paid for a subscription when I was a student and it was still pretty affordable… now eliminating even that small barrier for some students is a big deal.”
In terms of informing students about the subscription plan, Rinker said they’ve used a multi-pronged approach. “We’re spreading the word through Facebook, and we’re working to do that more with Instagram. What I’ve been doing is outreach directly to student organizations through Instagram,” Rinker explained. “I’m also partnering with Journalism faculty to introduce the subscription and talk more about what we’re doing.”
“A lot of students don’t realize the resources that are available to them beyond campus,” Rinker said. “We’re trying to make those connections so that they feel comfortable with their local journalists, that if there’s something happening in their lives that they want to talk about, we’re here to listen.”
The Keene Sentinel will be tabling at the Student Involvement Fair on Sept. 7. To sign up for the free digital subscription, a student must create a Keene Sentinel account using their @keene.edu email address, or visit sentinelsource.com/subscribe/ under ‘Keene State College Student Access’.
Nathan Hope can be contacted at