Welcome back to another semester at the wonderfully quaint Wesleyan University! We are so excited to be writing our first Letter from the Editor. This is the sixth semester in The Argus for both of us (oh, how time flies) and we are so honored and fortunate to be chosen as Editors-in-Chief for the spring 2022 semester. As we start to get back in the swing of things, we wanted to communicate what we have been working on over the winter break, what we will be doing this semester, and where we hope to go in terms of our coverage.
One of the first things that we decided was our continuation of twice-weekly production. The Argus returned to this model last semester and we were so proud of the articles that were published and the community that was cultivated amongst the staff. While The Argus does have a reputation as the nation’s oldest biweekly college publication, we know that twice-weekly production can be a challenge during any semester. Nonetheless, we are hopeful and confident that The Argus can continue to produce quality coverage and reporting.
We held a virtual training session on Sunday, Jan. 30 to go over The Argus’ values, objectives, initiatives, and programming with the masthead staff. Not only was this meeting helpful in acquainting and preparing members of The Argus’ masthead staff for the upcoming semester, but it gave us the opportunity to communicate some of the conversations that the two of us had over the past winter break.
While planning for the spring semester, we wanted to make sure that anti-racism would be a focal point of our conversations and within The Argus at large. While we are excited to tell you about the programs that strive to openly embrace anti-racism this semester, we understand and acknowledge that we are by no means experts in this area. As student journalists, we are constantly learning from every article we publish. We aim to ask questions, raise concerns, and spark dialogues as much as possible to make sure that we continue to challenge ourselves and learn more about the field of journalism at large. With that said, here are some of the steps we have already taken and look forward to implementing this spring.
Since the summer of 2020, members of The Argus’ masthead staff have been looking at the best ways to approach Bryan Stascavage’s 2015 op-ed entitled “Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think.” After numerous discussions, the decision was made to keep the op-ed on The Argus website to ensure that we acknowledge our history and take accountability for some of the ways that our publication has fallen short in years prior. However, we have decided to include a statement at the top of the piece to ensure that we are not continuing to publish the article without making our current stance clear.
While we believe that publishing this statement on top of the op-ed is important, we know that anti-racism within The Argus does not begin or end at one specific opinion piece. Moving forward, we want to acknowledge that while we value the opinion section for its ability to spotlight new voices and raise awareness to the wider campus community, the arguments and views expressed in articles published by the opinion section do not represent the views of The Wesleyan Argus as a whole. We also want to make sure that we examine every opinion piece with a critical, comprehensive, and inclusive lens to ensure that we learn from our past mistakes.
Over the winter break, we made our dedication to anti-racism a concrete priority for The Argus and have begun to brainstorm ways to further equity and inclusion within the newsroom. One of the main means to help combat this discrepancy is through our beat system. This semester, we hope to revitalize and restructure the system to ensure that the coverage from our staff accurately reflects the various facets of Wesleyan’s community, and we are in the midst of closely looking at which beats we need to maintain or create to further our coverage. Moving forward, we will encourage all writers, especially beat reporters, to broaden the coverage of the stories they write and the sources they reach out to, and attend frequent and interactive anti-racist meetings led by Argus staff to ensure that The Argus is publishing work that reflects our community.
The primary way in which we hope to strengthen our coverage is by looking at the data we are continuing to compile from our coverage tracker, particularly by comparing this data to the results from the 2020–21 academic year and fall semester. Based off of the Minnesota Daily, the coverage tracker has been utilized by The Argus since the last academic year and will enable us to evaluate the demographic composition of our sources in relation to that of the University’s student body, faculty, and staff, and to provide a method of checking our progress moving forward in the semester.
While we hope to use the beat system as a way to improve our coverage and the coverage tracker to highlight gaps in our work, we realize that there are structural issues within college journalism holistically that provide barriers of access for students to engage in the field. It is because of this that we are beyond proud to continue the Argus Voices Fund, an initiative created in the summer of 2020 by former Editors-in-Chief Serena Chow ’21 and Claire Isenegger ’21 to financially support student journalists of color from low-income communities. We are thankful to the intensive fundraising efforts of former Editors-in-Chief Hannah Docter-Loeb ’22 and Emma Smith ’22, which were crucial to allowing The Argus to continue this initiative this semester. Unpaid positions within The Argus can still prove to be a barrier for students and has helped account for the overrepresentation of white reporters within student newsrooms. Due to fundraising efforts and Argus volunteers, we are fortunate enough to financially support this program and ensure its continual growth.
We are proud and hopeful for all of the programs that we will focus on this semester. In addition to these action steps and continuing to hold our staff anti-racism meetings, we have a couple of initiatives that we are working on and are hoping to publicize later on.
We also aim to maintain a number of Argus initiatives, including the Speaker Series and Alumni Task Force. The Speaker Series allows members of The Argus and broader Wesleyan community to connect with influential and experienced figures in journalism, while the Alumni Task Force focuses on maintaining The Argus’ relationships with alumni. Through these programs, we hope to extend our outreach and communications with all of our readers, including Wesleyan students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
We are proud of the community that was cultivated within The Argus last semester. Moving forward, we hope to maintain these strong relationships between our staff members while also extending our reach to the wider student body. We want Wesleyan students to feel comfortable reaching out to us and to view The Argus as a reliable source of campus coverage. The Argus has always been a student publication, and we want to make sure that it will be used by and for our fellow students.
We hope that anyone who is interested in joining The Argus will come by our weekly Sunday meetings. We encourage those who want to follow our coverage to sign up for our bimonthly newsletter, check out our website for new articles, or pick up a print copy of The Argus on campus every Tuesday and Friday.
Manifesting a happy spring semester!
All the best,
Jem and Oliver