In this letter, I want to express exactly what The College Contemporary is, and what value we intend on bringing to college campuses.
Unlike traditional student newspapers, we want to recruit writers and readers from schools around the country under a single publication. We believe this new model can improve student journalism at the college level.
Student newspapers, as outlined in our first Letter from the Editorial Board, have their limitations: “These outlets are imperiled by the same economic forces that have hollowed out local newspapers from coast to coast,” writes Adam Willis of the Atlantic. “The need for aggressive student news organizations is as acute as ever. But image-obsessed administrators are hastening the demise of these once-formidable campus watchdogs.”
For a short while, I was a writer for my own campus newspaper. I wanted to write a piece on the pay of people contracted to work for the school — those who work as part of Sodexo in sanitation and food services. I collected a few phone numbers, and conducted a few interviews over the phone. Our school’s administration, unfortunately, caught wind of this. They communicated with my paper’s higher management, and my managing editor told me to stop.
Foolish and furious, I went to our Sodexo Human Relations. This too found its way back to my newspaper’s management, who promptly fired me.
An intercollegiate student organization would give the power, and the resources, to students who wish to write these adversarial stories. Bucking-heads with the institution which gives you your degree is always scary; but, it’s necessary to fight to take-on to hold leadership accountable.
The College Contemporary has a few other important purposes as well. For one, we hope that by promoting journalism at the college level, we can help ensure a better future for journalism as a whole.
Right now, nationwide trust in professional media is low, and the number of click-baitey, low-value publications is high. Local news outlets are getting decimated financially, and the most mainstream, prestigious outlets rely on sensational coverage to stay relevant.
There is no quick-fix solution to the problems which the media industry faces. But, one thing is certain: if high-quality, ethical reporting is to survive, the next generation of journalists need to do a better job. At its best, journalism informs the public with accurate and relevant information, empowering the individual to make better decisions. At its worst, journalism can clog the internet with clickbait, ideology, and poorly disguised advertisements. Our society desperately needs more of the former and less of the ladder.
A few select schools have the resources to train young people journalistic skills and rigor; the vast majority don’t. We hope to be an undergraduate training ground that gives all students practice writing and reporting. And, unlike other student publications, we don’t want to confine this opportunity to a single school.
Finally, The College Contemporary aims to provoke more open-discourse on campus. In their ideal form, college campuses should be hubs of debate, disagreement, and intellectual diversity. A 2021 survey found colleges are failing to live up to this: 80% of students — spread across all political persuasions — feel the need to self-censor when discussing hot-button issues.
Some colleges — Stanford, Dartmouth, Notre Dame and others — have alternative newspapers. They have been immensely valuable in promoting campus debate, and penetrating through the echo-chambers college kids oftentimes fall into. But, these alternatives tend to lean conservative, and end up feeding into the left-right dichotomy which stifles intellectual curiosity at-large. We hope our publication can be a provocative, non-partisan promoter of inquiry into our world’s most pressing issues.
The College Contemporary is still in its infancy, and we are far from making a serious impact on the problems that student journalism faces. But, with time and effort, we aim to turn these romantic visions of who we want to be into the reality of what we do.