Recently, I have been hired as the Managing Editor for my school newspaper here at SFCC. It’s a position that I certainly wanted, and was thrilled when I learned that it was mine.
Being a perfectionist when it comes to page layouts, good photos, accurate cutlines, correct grammar, non-biased writing and well-sourced articles, I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty and start shaping the paper into the clean, informative, interesting and illuminating artifact.
As it turns out, creating and editing page layouts, taking and editing photos, editing over 10 articles at least twice each, fact-checking, making sure everyone is where they need to be, and ensuring that the paper includes information includes all demographics and all pertinent information – all while taking 3 other classes and and working 30 hours a week – is not as simple as it seems.
Looking at paper in print, all I can think of is how we could have done more. And this sentiment is common if not universal among artists and creatives; as Leonardo DaVinci once said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” And when it comes to deadlines, there is no choice but to finish before you’re finished.
However, this feeling of not having done enough is different from the feeling when I step back from a piece of art and say “good enough.” News media has certain and important role and responsibility to it’s viewers.
Jayasree Roy of Global Ethics Network writes, “Media acts as watchdog to protect public interest against malpractice and create public awareness.”
My adviser Jason Nix recently brought to my attention this quote: “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Did we protect public interest against malpractice? Did we even address malpractice of any kind? Why does it feel like we just comforted the comfortable?
The paper’s staff is highly capable. We have students, who have never written a news article, that managed to complete an article (with photos), learn how to navigate InDesign and Photoshop, and design an entire section for the last issue. Seasoned staff members helped whenever there was a question, and often accompanied reporters on their first interviews. A new reporter covered a recent rape case on campus as her first story.
There is no lack of talent in the newsroom. However, each member of our staff is between 16 and 30, most are white, and most are straight. How can we properly cover topic pertaining to over 40, people of color, LGBTQ community, students who are parents, people below the poverty line, people with mental illness, and others who are not necessarily in view of our staff regularly?
I don’t have the answer. But I have some ideas: Emphasize the importance of reader feedback. Encourage individuals or groups to reach out to us if they feel they are not properly covered. Consciously recognize which groups we are a part of, and which ones we aren’t. Look at our stories to see if they all have too much in common.
I will take this feeling of failure to our readers as motivation to reach out to readers to see what we’re missing, make sure that story choices are meaningful, and to always hold my staff and myself to the highest standards possible.