Examining Campus Journalism
As we enter the remaining months of the school year, another Board of The Lawrence finishes its tenure and fades into Lawrenceville history.
As we enter the remaining months of the school year, another Board of The Lawrence finishes its tenure and fades into Lawrenceville history. New editors are chosen, new writers are featured, new pages are distributed, and life simply moves on, but just as in previous years, our student body has failed to match the level of engagement that a newspaper needs. We seem to have forgotten about the importance of campus journalism, with many of us writing for the sake of being published. There is rarely ever any sustained, meaningful dialogue on what is printed in these pages.
We, as editors, are not here to coerce you into writing for us in the fleeting weeks we have left on the job. Nor are we here to vainly flaunt our work. We are simply here to argue that our student body lacks in journalistic engagement on campus and to explain to you why we think Lawrentians need to play more active roles in student publications, reading or writing, The Lawrence or not. As students who seek to engage in a democracy and leave a lasting legacy on our world, we have a social responsibility to first understand more about our own community before moving onto another. Neglecting to do so will only widen our emotional and social distance from others and exacerbate any ignorance in our worldviews.
Through House and Harkness, our student body prides itself on our connectedness, but when it comes to reading about a faculty member’s life experiences or about a sports team’s winning match over the weekend, we seem to struggle to dedicate two minutes of our time to learn more about those around us. While over 150 students have contributed to The Lawrence at least once over the past year, our writer base pales in comparison to the approximately 800 students studying at Lawrenceville. We understand that not every student is particularly fond of writing, but engaging in a fascinating interview with a community member or covering a unique musical performance all serve as ways for us to better connect with our community. Perhaps listening to a faculty member describe his or her passions may allow you to develop a greater appreciation of his or her work. Learning more about the intricacies of performing and visual arts from a classmate may inspire you to dabble with the discipline yourself. Cheering alongside bleachers of Lawrentians may encourage you to attend more games in the future. Collaborating with a peer to take a stance on polarizing real-world events may deepen your understanding of geopolitics or domestic issues. On-campus journalism exposes us to opportunities, oftentimes serendipitously, that we otherwise would rarely have access to.
One of the greatest gifts that journalism provides us with is an opportunity to engage in dialogue. While our Harkness discussions certainly allow us to foster similar kinds of civil discourse, campus journalism serves as a platform for students to take a deep-dive in certain topics and converse about out-of-class topics. In our past year as editors, we have rarely ever received student requests to write an article in response to one published the week prior, even when our issues featured countless contentious editorials and articles with the potential to spark fruitful back-and-forths; this limits the number of perspectives we can offer across our tenure. We seem to have fostered a writing culture that prioritizes simply publishing rather than using articles to converse with one another. A prime example of what we must aim for was evident in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal editorials on the widespread energy failures in Texas last week. The two publications featured back-and-forth analysis refuting each other’s evidence and claims in great detail. Such exchanges deepen the understanding of anyone who reads those pieces, as reading two valid, yet drastically different, arguments makes one rethink his or her own beliefs and values.
Checking out the newest student publications or signing up to write an article in response to one that intrigued you the week prior costs little yet offers a significant pay-off. This benefit is amplified by the fact that many of the people whom we sit next to in class, compete alongside on playing fields, and reside alongside in our houses are the ones contributing informative content to Lawrenceville’s long list of publications. Something as small as asking him or her why he or she believes in a certain point of view, or how he or she covered that particular school event, not only validates the significance of the individual’s work, but may also serve as the start of a flourishing exchange of ideas.