It is no secret that journalism is at a tipping point — financially unstable newsrooms continue to downsize, profit-driven parent companies lay off full-time journalists and popular publications are shutting down at a frightening rate. College publications, such as The Occidental Weekly, are lucky to have a cushion that prevents such downsizing. Rather than relying heavily on advertising and subscription fees, college newspapers have the advantage of a stable student body and institutional funding. However, this does not make such publications immune to the rules of supply and demand — a newspaper is only as strong as its readership. As those in power continue to attack the media, one would expect news consumers to stand up and adamantly assert their right to a free press. Yet, this does not seem to be the case — at least not on the Occidental campus. Campus newsstands often remain untouched throughout the week, rarely are fruitful discussions sparked on online comment sections and few non-staff members share articles online.
Occidental students need to start paying close attention not only to campus news, but also to news in general. Rarely have I been able to have a discussion with a peer about an article I recently read — and more often than not, those with whom I can discuss such pieces are fellow members of the Weekly staff. Paying attention to the news is not a burden or painful obligation — it is a rewarding intellectual stimulation that one should relentlessly crave. Academic knowledge is important, but being in touch with the pulse of one’s campus — and one’s society — is just as crucial to becoming a well-rounded, educated individual. Newspapers give us insight into what our peers are thinking, accomplishing and worrying about. They offer us perspectives we had never before considered. They expand our intellect, consciousness, emotional intelligence, empathy and overall understanding of our society.
“Paying attention to the news is not a burden or painful obligation — it is a rewarding intellectual stimulation that one should relentlessly crave.”
We can watch journalistic institutions collapse or decide to save them. We are lucky to live in a country in which journalists do not face jail time or death for what they write — we should vehemently ensure that this will always be the case. It is up to this generation what the future of media and the free press will look like. If we treasure transparency, justice and accountability, then our values must be upheld with actions. Individuals — college students especially — must participate in the institutions they claim to value. Read The Occidental Weekly — that’s step one, but it can’t end there. Speak to journalists when they need answers. Defend the media when government officials call it corrupt. Subscribe to respected publications in order to support their work during times of financial instability.
“It is up to this generation what the future of media and the free press will look like.”
If we consider ourselves critical thinkers, agents of social change and the leaders of tomorrow, then we must immediately work on improving our media literacy. If students cannot understand and support their immediate student publication, then society’s access to a free press, more broadly, faces extinction. Democracy must be exercised everyday — citizens cannot get comfortable and assume that what exists today is immutable.
“We are all responsible for protecting and preserving our rights, and we will all be guilty if we let these rights slip through the cracks.”
As a result of my personal experience working for The Weekly, I’ve learned not only how to write, think critically and interview sources, but also how to engage in critical dialogue, understand my audience and deeply consider perspectives with which I had previously disagreed. The journalist’s skills, ethics and deadlines have arguably played a larger part in preparing me for life beyond Occidental than most of my academic courses have, and I wish all students could experience such a fulfilling and stimulating learning environment. Some Occidental students might believe that The Weekly is biased or uninteresting — I encourage these individuals to apply to work for us. Be the change you want to see and change institutions from within.
I have served as Editor in Chief during one of the most threatening moments to the free press in my lifetime. As my time in this position comes to an end, I worry about what the future of the media will look like, and whether individuals will actively seek to preserve our journalistic institutions. However, I find solace in the fact that I will be handing the torch to Gabriel Dunatov (senior), one of the most earnest and passionate journalists I have ever met. Gabriel is the embodiment of journalistic ethics. I am confident that he will preserve our institution, and that his passion for the art of journalism will inspire other Occidental students as well.
Journalists are excited by controversy and live for the thrill that comes with seeking the truth. All we ask is for our work to not go to waste. We are the messengers, but the readers are those who must use what we write to catalyze change.