Former editor in chief speaks out

The Poly seems to be in trouble. I graduated a few years ago, so I can’t tell you exactly why that is. But I can tell you
why you should care.

It might seem tempting to brush off The Poly’s problems when you hear a steady stream of news about layoffs, sales, and bankruptcy in the world of professional newspapers. But this isn’t The Chicago Sun-Times or Cleveland’s Plain Dealer. This paper belongs to you.

Where else are you going to find out what’s going on on campus? New policies implemented by the administration that might affect you? Interviews with people running for student government? Find out more than a final score about the hockey game you couldn’t attend? See a calendar of what’s happening on campus for this week?

What if you find yourself frustrated by the some aspect of RPI and think it needs to be changed, but you can’t write a letter to the editor? What if you start some awesome new club or initiative and have no newspaper to spread the word to other students?

Plus, where else are you going to get your weekly crossword and cryptoquote?

Yes, there are other ways to receive and spread information, but none has the legitimacy and reliability of The Poly. The administration might chose to quietly announce a new policy that could affect you, burying important details in a mass of buzzwords and bureaucratic language.

As a reporter at RPI and elsewhere, I’ve seen this happen all too often. Are you really going to spend hours doing research and interviewing administrators just to learn how a new policy affects you? Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if a reporter did that for you, and a newspaper article explained in normal language the details that are important for students?

And perhaps you’re thinking you can turn to Reddit to complain about some flaw in the system at RPI­—maybe you felt mistreated at the health center or feel like you’re fighting tooth-and-nail to get the financial aid you need.

These kinds of things happened while I was at RPI, and I’ve seen people write about them in The Poly, and I’ve seen the administration respond. More than once, I’ve seen policy changes that make students’ lives easier as the result of an article in the newspaper. Do you think President Shirley Ann Jackson reads Reddit?

Perhaps you don’t care about The Poly’s potential demise because you don’t see it doing these things, or you feel like it should be something else that it’s not. If that’s you, step up and help out. It’s your community newspaper, and you should take ownership and change it if it’s not what you want to see.

Just stop by the Poly office on a Tuesday night­—I guarantee someone will talk to you. Or e-mail or the relevant section editor to offer to help or give suggestions.

You shouldn’t help The Poly out of pity or a sense of duty, though. You should help out because it will be beneficial to you. Some people think of newspapers and think of writing, graphics, maybe photography. But a newspaper needs people with many different skills to operate well, and yours are almost guaranteed to fit in somewhere.

Are you interested in business? That’s great, because The Poly is a business. Helping The Poly balance their finances and sell advertisements would look amazing on your résumé, and it’s something the paper needs desperately right now.

In Senior Managing Editor David Hodson’s letter, he mentioned that The Poly used to cover its own expenses with advertising. This is true, and it can be done again. There are tons of businesses that would love to appeal to the college crowd—The Poly just needs someone to seek them out.

Think about looking for jobs after graduation—can you imagine how impressed an interviewer would be if you could casually say, “Yeah, the college newspaper was in debt and in danger of failing, so I stepped in and made them financially solvent again.”?

Perhaps most importantly, making a newspaper is fun. The people I worked with during my four years with The Poly were incredible, and the newspaper office wasn’t just a place to work. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of inside jokes, and free food to go along with the late nights.

By working on the paper, something I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do when I first arrived at RPI, I discovered that I wanted to be a reporter and ended up pursuing it as a career. Maybe that won’t happen to you, but exploring your interest in writing or photography or web design or management or business will help you learn more about yourself.

So give it a try. All you have to lose are a few hours of your boring Tuesday night.