DePauw dies in darkness

672

I’m still not exactly sure what The DePauw’s former editors saw in an awkward, very much confined to his shell, first-year from small town, Indiana.  Yet, I’m glad they dragged me into the newsroom.  I haven’t been able to leave since.

My DePauw experience has largely been shaped by the interactions, relationships, and conversations I’ve had in the newsroom and Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media, where The DePauw, our student newspaper, is housed.  I’ve mixed my fair share of business and pleasure, navigated the ethical ramifications of running a story, and yes, I’ve made mistakes, plenty of them.

Through it all, I’ve had the support of fellow student journalists and faculty.  The community of student journalists is not something my colleagues or I will ever truly leave behind even after we graduate.  This building, and the often untidy newsroom, has been a home for us.  However, I realize each DePauw student has a different experience here, and that’s precisely why I write this piece.

We study, laugh, cry, and dance together. By some happenstance we all ended up committing to spend four years in Greencastle, Indiana. This community is home. It’s not just a place where we reside. Rather, we belong here. It’s likely you will never feel as connected with others and our institution as you do in these four years.

Yet, we each have our unique circles. We all have different reasons for entering, bring in different ideas, and experience different things while here. We are not homogenous.

However, one bond we all can share is our paper—The DePauw. During my time here, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the impact quality accessible journalism can have on a student body.  My freshman year, Ashton Johnson’s opinion piece opened my eyes to privilege. She helped me realize as a white, heterosexual male in a Greek house there were and are things I take for granted. I needed to hear that. DePauw needed to hear that.

As a result, her commentary helped spark a conversation on campus. It ignited faculty action and expanded upon former President Bottoms’s commitment to make DePauw a more diverse and inclusive place. A power, privilege and diversity requirement was born along with the Day of Dialogue. While there is certainly still a great deal of future work needed—as two bias incidents last fall clearly demonstrate—our campus is working toward becoming a more inclusive, aware DePauw.

Just this semester, DePauw and Greencastle needed to hear how students without access to cars were forced to wait hours on reliable transportation. DePauw needed be critiqued on how it addresses—or fails to address—sexual assault. The DePauw community and prospective students needed to hear how the School of Music was responding to a change in leadership.

In each instance above, and countless others, The DePauw, student journalists, and campus media as a whole shined a light on unexposed voices, problems, and policies. Those voices were in darkness and they needed to be revealed. That is one of the many benefits of a community newspaper that covers local issues. It allows the community to see itself, and its members to talk to one another in op-eds and letters to the editor. And those conversations can and do make a difference. It is the very foundation of a residential campus.

The most recent Gallup survey data shows only 1 in 3 Americans have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in media.  Only 14% of Republicans expressed trust—down from 32% in 2015.  I’m not sure what the survey results would be if they were taken on DePauw’s campus, but I have a gut feeling they’d reflect our national numbers. I don’t know that faculty, staff, and fellow students trust campus media.

As a writer and former editor at our campus newspaper, I’ll be first to admit The DePauw is far from perfect. You’ll have a hard time finding any organization that is. Despite our hard work, we misspell names, miss quote, and fall victims to comma splices.

However, I’d encourage you to ask yourself a series of questions. If our campus paper disappeared, what would happen? Who would serve as the alternative voice to our administration? What platform would exist for students to have their voices heard? Who would shine a light into the darkness?

So, while my headline, just like the Washington Post’s slogan, might be overdramatic, I do not believe it’s all that far of a stretch. A DePauw University that pushes its students to be informed, engaged, and aware problem solvers might well die without the dialogue and discussion that takes place in our student paper. That is my DePauw. I think it’s the type of institution everyone desires us to be.

This newspaper has been a second home to me. I’ve experienced every emotion under the sun in our newsroom, made lifelong relationships, and I’ve evolved into a student passionate about leaving DePauw just a little bit better than I found it.

But this does not make it my paper. Rather, it is ours. Take the opportunity to read your peers’ perspectives, expose yourself to new ideas, and soak up our coverage. You might just learn something about yourself and make our University better in the process.

Cheers to you, The DePauw.