On Wednesday evening I attended the student session preceding the Drew Forum. The seats in the classroom were filled with eager students, ready to meet the hosts of the NPR Politics Podcast. After a brief comment by one of the panelists, I asked a self-serving question (although it was self-serving in a different way than other questions from the audience had been): what do you think about the decline of local journalism?
The answers given by the panel were as expected. Mara Liasson called this phenomenon the “scariest thing happening in our democracy today,” as her colleagues voiced their agreement. I was not surprised. What did perplex me was the reaction from the students in the room. The aspiring journalists and podcasters in the room nodded in agreement, the political science students murmured words of approval, while the rest snapped their fingers at the panelists’ words. And yet, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of students in that room that have written for The Acorn.
Student journalism might not be as sexy as writing for the New York Times or being a foreign war correspondent, but it’s how most of professional journalists started. And although it is true that you don’t have to be a writer for your college newspaper in order to make it as a journalist in the future, there is no doubt that it helps to have a portfolio when you are applying for jobs fresh out of college. Most importantly, learning how to care about local issues matters.
GRAPHIC COURTESY OF THE CONCORDIAN
For people that live inside the Drew bubble, we are not great at caring about what happens on our campus. Although hundreds of people signed an online petition to restore the previous Title IX AA/EEO coordinator, hardly a third of them showed up to the forum to talk about the changes to Title IX and AA/EEO. Student clubs know that the only way to secure attendance to an event is with the promise of non-Aramark food, and it says something that the most popular events are never about current issues or difficult conversations.
While I am always upset about the systemic apathy of Drew students, this semester I have been increasingly irritated by the hypocrisy shown by students that pride themselves on being civically engaged and ready to take on the problems of the world. These are the same people that, when I mention I work for the newspaper, tell me they do not even know how to get a copy of The Acorn.
I challenge the aspiring journalists and writers who were at this event the following: if you care about the future of journalism as much as you say you do, come to the Acorn next week and try your hand at writing or copyediting. Same to all of the people who say they care about politics and civic engagement, get involved in local government, pay attention to local journalism. And most importantly, do not do it to get an internship or a job after graduation.
Kassel is a senior Women and Gender Studies and International Relations double major with a minor in Latin American Studies.