My name is Sophie Smith, and this year I am serving as the Collegian’s editor-in-chief. Before we all get too far into this new academic year, I would like to take a few moments to introduce myself, describe some of the Collegian’s goals for the year and tell you all how we plan to go about reaching those goals.
In preparing for this year, a central question the Collegian editorial staff has asked itself is this: “Who is the Collegian’s audience?” or, perhaps more fittingly, “Who do we wish for the Collegian’s audience to include?” As I see it, the answer is the Willamette community, which includes students (both undergraduate and graduate), faculty, staff and administrators, as well as those more on the periphery of campus: alumni, former faculty and staff, students’ families and prospective students. The Collegian has the responsibility to report in such a way that truthfully reflects the breadth of diverse identities, backgrounds, perspectives and interests that exist within that definition. The Collegian aims to represent and highlight the voices of all members of the Willamette community, not just those of a small group of writers and editors. As such, two of our main goals this year are to increase communication between our staff and the rest of campus and to increase readers’ accessibility to our publication.
Clearly, my definition of the Collegian’s audience does not fit neatly within the confines of the College of Liberal Arts campus, and only offering our content to folks who can pick up a hard copy on that campus excludes a large portion of our readership. Just as the professional journalism industry rapidly digitizes, so too is the Collegian aiming to expand its online presence. Full current issues, as well as past ones, are always available on our website, www.willamettecollegian.com. Moving forward, we hope to better utilize this website, as it is an invaluable resource for making our content accessible and for reaching a wider audience.
Another goal of ours is to open more lines of communication between Collegian leadership and the rest of the Willamette community. Disagree with an argument we published or an editorial decision we made? Have a tip about something you believe we should report on? Let us know. My inbox is always open at email@example.com. Additionally, we welcome all members of the community to submit letters to the editor or guest opinion pieces they have written (please note that the choice to publish such submissions remains up to the discretion of the Collegian executive team). Please email submissions to me. Feedback is indispensable to any news publication, and the Collegian is no exception. It holds us accountable for the work we do and alerts us of any shortcomings in our reporting.
Historically, the Collegian has acted in such a way that has made some members of the Willamette community feel they have been misrepresented or excluded in our reporting. Due to the use of ignorant or harmful language in print, the misreporting of sensitive or serious stories, the favoring of some subject matter over others and more, our past actions have established a trust deficit we now have the responsibility of mitigating.
We are in our second year of working with Len Reed, a seasoned journalist who consults us on matters of journalist practices and conventions. With his guidance we are better equipped to report on stories in a professional manner, and from him we receive constant feedback and suggestions for improvement. Further, we are aware of the impact our words have on readers, and are aiming to report and write with intentionality. Our staff is encouraged to approach interviews with respect, being aware that we are not entitled to anyone’s time or labor. It is a goal of mine to implement bias training in our annual or bi-annual mandatory training program for Collegian staff. Being able to contribute to this platform is a privilege, and all of us need to be properly trained and educated about how to use it responsibly.
At the Collegian, we are continuously learning and growing, and if we take a misstep along the way we will hold ourselves accountable, take responsibility for our mistakes and work hard to learn from the experience. I look forward to working with this year’s talented and hard-working Collegian staff, as well as receiving feedback from and getting to know more members of the Willamette community as the upcoming semesters progress.
We still have work to do. I encourage you to stick with us while we do it.