Taking on the roles of Editors-in-Chief of The Wesleyan Argus for this semester, we had a few questions to answer: What is the role of The Argus at Wesleyan University? What is its role to the greater world? And further, what could its role be?
After spending a few years as students here, working at The Argus, talking to community members, and reporting on this school, we took our leadership roles with the guiding philosophy that journalism is a social good. The Argus, we felt, should be a tool for students, faculty, alumni, and, especially in recent days, outsiders to better know and understand this diverse community. And it could do a better job than it has been doing.
We set about making The Argus into a news outlet that would seek to serve everyone better. We believe that we made some headway, but that this is an ongoing project, one that we hope to see continue through next semester’s editors and future editors.
There are two places where we sought to improve how The Argus functions: content and engagement. What we found was that the two came hand in hand. Strengthening our ties to the community not only expanded the audience of our stories but also inspired new stories for our audience. Prioritizing social media—specifically, our under-utilized Facebook and Twitter accounts—brought us in contact with a wide variety of students, faculty, and alumni who brought new issues to our attention. And, not insignificantly, we could keep a constant eye out for mentions of Wesleyan in the news. From those, we found out about fraternity lawsuits against the school, stumbled across media vitriol toward Open House, and kept up with developments in the series of drug-related incidents.
Sometimes these leads have been rumors, which we’ve been able to dispel. Other times, we’ve been able to take information and run with it, using social media again to report what we have confirmed, even before our articles hit the press. (We’re not pretending like we’re breaking new ground here by using the Internet. The Argus has not done the best job at keeping up with the times; “digital first” is new to all newspapers, but caring about digital at all is brand-new to us.) We’ve become faster at getting information out to the public this semester while keeping our accuracy and accountability strong. Though we have stumbled and the news often runs faster than we can catch it, we hope that The Argus has become more useful to students in this way. We’ll improve with practice, and our readers will adjust to viewing The Argus not simply as a piece of paper on Tuesdays and Fridays. As our website and social media stats have shown this semester, many already have changed their view of The Argus.
However, as students, we can’t be everywhere. It’s the major downside to being an all-volunteer, part-time group. We can’t be in court during trials or hearings, we can’t photograph every event, and we can’t report every individual’s opinion. If only we could—a more informed community is a stronger community, a more powerful community. Even at a school as involved as Wesleyan, much goes unnoticed and unreported.
The Argus is connected to this community, and the more people who engage with The Argus, the more relevant, diverse, and useful it can become. We are a student newspaper, and we hope people use us as such. Often, students and alumni lash out against The Argus (yes, we do hear you) online, in our comments section, on Yik Yak, on the ACB, over email, and in person. People feel slighted by a perceived bias in our reporting and become angry at us for not considering another side, or for not highlighting a specific group or activity. Some feedback has been useful to us, and we’ve taken it to heart by making our coverage more sensitive in some areas, pursuing new angles to stories, and finding the gaps in our editing process. (It’s actually been a few years since the editors of The Argus have published editorials; we see them as part of our mission to maintain transparency about our process as well as to a way of representing our organization to the public.)
Journalism is a collaborative process. It is reflective of who is writing, certainly, as well as of who talks to those writers. The Argus is always trying to recruit new students to join our staff (it’s never too late to start!), but beyond that, we are always asking students to speak to us about what they care about. We can’t know your feelings if you don’t talk to us; moreover, we can’t report them. Being interviewed, writing a Wespeak, or contacting us about important campus events and conversations allows us to hear and better represent you and the Wesleyan community.
We want more voices, not fewer; we want to improve representation, not diminish it; we want to widen perspectives, not narrow them. We want to reveal and showcase the diversity of this University, its graduates, and its workers. We want to know more about this school so that it may be improved. We can’t do that without the participation of you, our readers and our sources. An Argus that is sensitive to and predictive of the needs of the Wesleyan community is beneficial to all. You’re reading and interacting with us more than ever, and it both reflects and improves the quality of our work.
We pass along the reins of this newspaper to its next leaders, and a staff of which we are confident and proud. We hope our readers trust and work with them as they have with us. Help us continue to build The Argus we need at Wesleyan.