Why We Publish: Ed Board reflects on student journalism

If, in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, you climb the dusty stairs hidden above the College Center to the third floor of Main Building and peek inside room 303, you will come across an unexpected sight: a cohort of fatigued yet persistent college students toiling away at their computers, reading, writing and perfecting their articles. They do so not only to ensure that the upcoming edition of their weekly publication is safely en route to the printers’ in time to be delivered and distributed throughout the campus by that evening, but also to strive for an issue even better than the last.

In the far corner of the office, the Design Editor rests in her swivel chair, formatting the master file of the week’s paper in Adobe InDesign while simultaneously fielding a barrage of inquiries and requests from other editors. All of the section leaders, from News to Humor, are scattered across the room, engrossed in their own work. Some have their laptops open while perched on one of the sofas awkwardly pushed together in the corner. Others gaze at Adobe InCopy on the glowing monitor of one of the office’s many Macs, pondering where to place each article or which headline idea best expresses a piece’s central theme. Circulating throughout the room is the Senior Editor, who helps monitor the progress of all the sections and reads all of the articles to be published in the paper, sometimes staying as late as 4 a.m.—or whenever the newspaper is nearly finished. In the back room, the Editor-in-Chief sits at her desk, also reading through all of the articles between pauses to consult with editors or resolve queries. On the wall behind her is a plethora of advice and praise from past Editors-in-Chief penned for their incoming successors. Given the sheer amount of time that many staff members of The Miscellany News staff spend inside this office, it is little wonder that Main 303 tends to becomes like a second home to them.

Undeniably, contributing to a weekly publication can be difficult and frustrating at times. Section editors must carefully shape articles to produce impactful and engaging content, while preserving the voices of their many talented authors. These authors themselves are tasked with keeping their fingers on the pulse of the campus culture, whether they are investigating recent developments within the Vassar administration for News, discussing the latest Drama Department production for Arts or brandishing their wit for Humor. Every member of The Miscellany News—from newly minted Copy Staffer to contributing photographer to cartoonist—serves an integral role that directly affects the production, and each page of the paper is testament to this spirit of collaboration.

Working at The Miscellany News provides no external reward in the traditional sense; staffers donít receive class credit or monetary compensation. Instead, we come aboard because of genuine love and passion for the work. While the experience—which, for many editors, shapes the trajectory of their four years at Vassar—may be fleeting, it is nevertheless incredibly formative. The paper not only spreads awareness about current events but also documents Vassar’s history, and the Miscellany archives become a source of information for generations of students to come.

A common misconception about college newspapers is that staffers are in some way expected to pursue a career in journalism after graduation. In fact, many members of the Editorial Board have no such intentions, instead devoting their time outside of the Miscellany to the pursuit of other academic and extracurricular interests. This raises the question, “If you don’t want to be a journalist, why on earth would you expend so much time and effort on this weekly paper?” Each contributor would offer a different answer. One might say they wanted to have a greater awareness of newsworthy events on campus. Another might explain that a friend dragged them in and, before they knew it, they were too attached to leave. Others might cite the camaraderie fostered by late nights laboring in the office, or the fact that the paper serves as an outlet for their creativity. Regardless of our motivations for joining or our future career goals, practicing effective communication—both verbal and written—is one of the most essential skills that we pick up in our work here at the Miscellany.

A key reason that we publish is our commitment to creating and maintaining a forum for Vassar students to share their thoughts and opinions and exercise their right be heard. Our goal is to hold a mirror up to the Vassar community, for itself and for ourselves. Countless prospective students have flipped through a copy of the paper to gain an understanding of the Vassar community and what is important to us, and depending on what they read, they may decide that this is the place for them or the exact opposite.

Most important, The Miscellany News provides a platform for students to push for change, whether on the local, national or global scale. It would be impossible to publish every week without the admirable commitment of our student writers, who constantly offer refreshing perspectives on the world and deliver stories that affect and illuminate the campus. As a student-run organization, the newspaper is not constrained by oversight from administrators, and thus can champion freedom of expression. Our obligation is to represent the voice of the student body.

As one of the core platforms for Vassar-dwellers to express their thoughts, opinions, creations and beliefs without censorship, the paper’s ultimate goal to make student voices heard. For 152 years, The Miscellany News has carried the evolving ideas and voices of Vassar students. As editors of this historic newspaper, despite daily annoyances ranging from crashing Adobe software to pesky writer’s block, we are thankful for our role in this mission and for the community of readers and writers who have supported—and who continue to support—the paper’s publication. Without you, none of this would be possible. We firmly believe that The Miscellany News is first and foremost a newspaper by the students, for the students.

–The Staff Editorial expresses the opinion of at least 2/3 of The Miscellany News Editorial Board.

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