Digital Media: A “Catch 2020”

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If you haven’t realized by now, 2020 has been a tumultuous year. As members of the media, our role to inform and connect the DePauw community has become more necessary than ever.

Nationally, digital media has faced a massive burden. Competing with predatory algorithms, “fake news,” and clickbait, journalists have been forced to navigate new platforms while striving for truth and transparency.

These challenges have only been exacerbated by COVID-19, as the crushing global pandemic has caused upheaval in our lives in more ways than we can list. 

In March, international students were asked on a moment’s notice to decide whether to stay or leave the US facing uncertainty over when they will see their families again or if they will be able to return to the States. Over the summer, a racial reckoning sparked protests across the country, continuing into the fall. Throughout it all, natural disasters and climate change has destroyed communities from coast-to-coast. And of course… the election.

For most of us students, social media has been a gateway to news and information surrounding these events, as well as a means to stay connected to our campus community and friendships. This reality is reflected in screentime reports that have skyrocketed, as social media has become the sole arbiter for work, school, and relationships.

Through apps like Instagram and Twitter, students have been able to combat the injustices faced by many within our own campus community. International students have faced possible visa suspensions both in school and post-graduation, Black students and allies have continued to fight for justice in the Greencastle community, and issues surrounding climate change and the election have circulated across student profiles.

But while necessary to our social and academic lives, endless, predatory feeds have furthered divisiveness and anxiety. Ironically, we turn to the same feeds to cope with our crippling anxiety and chronic loneliness—a classic Catch-22. 

A friend recently said that we are only a school paper. But we are, in fact, the school’s only paper—we are the only source of news other than University administration and the student rumor mill. 

The DePauw staff, like the rest of the student body, is spread across time zones and countries, going as far as Pakistan and Vietnam. Our dedication to providing transparency and accurate information is not an extracurricular that starts after classes and ends before dinner. Rather, we are 15 students and one faculty advisor who edit stories between classes or on our phones as we walk to work, we use our lunch hour to conduct interviews, and respond to constant notifications on Slack in an attempt to swiftly cover events as they happen. 

We are doing our best, but we acknowledge that our best is not enough; behind the stories we write (or fail to write) there are so many complex realities and viewpoints that go uncovered. Regardless, as students living in Catch-2020, we hope our content has and will continue to inform and connect campus more effectively, and we want to be better.