May 31, 2020

Here’s why writing on a college paper is so much harder than you think

I want to start this off by saying that I’m not trying to make excuses. I understand that this may come off as whiny or obnoxious, and I’m ok with that.

But what I am not ok with is having a university faculty member approach me and degrade my paper because we don’t live up to his standards.

In essence, he critiqued the type of content that we’re producing. Apparently, we aren’t serious enough. And maybe we’re not. 

Maybe he’s right, and each and every story being put into the Chimes each week is just a bunch of fluff. We write about things like movies, student achievements, and campus news. We write opinion articles and food reviews and everything in between, but so what?

Our readers read it, we produce it well, and more casual media is taking the world by storm.

But the thing is, it’s not that we’re not covering hard news because we just don’t want to. 

Working on a newspaper at a private university is a lot harder than you think.

Private and public universities can’t censor student papers, but private universities are not directly bound by the first amendment (Source).

Capital is a small school, meaning there isn’t a huge pool of students to recruit from. The Chimes staff currently consists of a grand total of 15 students. Of those 15 students, seven are reporters, and four of those reporters are volunteers — they aren’t being paid or receiving class credit, not to mention the other staff members who are writing in addition to performing their other duties, just so we can get our paper out.

These are not our full-time jobs.

We’re all trying to juggle classes, social lives, other organizations, work, and internships on top of producing this paper, and it’s a lot.

The university continues to cut our budget every year, making it nearly impossible to hire more staff and generate more motivation from the writers to work on their articles. 

As someone who was previously a volunteer reporter, I know how hard it is to work on something I’m not being graded on or paid for. 

Our numbers are getting smaller and smaller, making it more difficult to put the paper out.

But at least we do it.

The biggest obstacle we face is actually getting sufficient proof to move forward with a story. 

When there are rumors making their way around campus about something, but administration and professors won’t talk to us about them, there is legitimately nothing that we can do. No one wants to talk bad about their colleagues and be publicly quoted, and without legitimate quotes, we have nothing.

And although this isn’t something that I struggle with personally, I’ve had other reporters tell me that they don’t feel comfortable covering certain stories because of potential consequences.

The people that we could potentially “expose” are our professors and administration. They’re the people who determine our grades and the people who we go to for help. 

Although we’re journalists, we’re still students at the university who are trying to get an education, and getting on the bad side of important people — especially on such a small campus — is a scary thought.

No one wants the reputation of being the reporter who made everyone mad. No one wants to get stuck in a class with a professor who may have been negatively affected by anything that got published in an article that they wrote.

Why do you think we never got anything out about President Paul following the “no confidence” vote in March and the anonymous letter to the Dispatch in June?

It’s sure not because we didn’t try. 

We’re doing our best out here. We’re working as hard as we can to produce the content that our readers deserve. We spend countless hours in our office working on stories and laying out pages to get the paper out each week.

And no matter what anybody says, I’m so proud of what we do. I’m proud of what I write, whether it’s hard news or a music review or an opinion, and I’m proud of what my staff does. They work harder than anyone realizes.

Working on a college newspaper is hard, but we aren’t going to give up.

  • Sydney is the managing editor at the Chimes and a senior professional writing and journalism major at Capital University pursuing a career arts and entertainment writing. Some of her favorite things are cold brew, books about dragons, horror films, and her cat, Sterling.

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