Why The Polytechnic is needed more than ever
Why does The Polytechnic exist? While it may initially seem silly to ask, it is an important question in today’s age. Historically, The Poly was one of the few ways that people could learn about news, see reviews, and hear other’s views on subjects pertaining to life at Rensselaer. With the spread of social media and the Internet, however, there are now multiple ways for students and alumni to obtain that information such as through Reddit posts, Facebook events, or direct emails from administrators instead of student-written articles. What distinguishes The Poly from any other information source is the accountability for what we write and our goal of providing unbiased information.
The simplest reason for The Poly’s existence is that there are students at RPI who want to be a part of a news organization. I wrote about this before, but I hated writing in high school because I wasn’t interested in writing the literary analyses I was made to do for English class. However, writing for The Poly scratched an unknown itch. For students who have an interest in writing, The Poly is one of the few opportunities on campus that gives those students that outlet.
The school also needs a news organization. While RPI may be a small school, there are major decisions that are made which need to be accurately documented so that the people making those decisions can be held accountable. If anyone makes a questionable decision, they know that The Poly will be following up with them and asking for an explanation. Some may argue that RPI’s subreddit or Facebook groups can replace a news organization, but they are wrong. The big difference between an article and a post on a subreddit or a Facebook group is the accountability of the author. Our names are attached to the pieces we publish, with rare exceptions. This means that if someone searches for the author’s name for any reason—a job search, relationship, or background check—their articles come up. This visibility makes us accountable for what we write. If our articles spread false information, then it will hurt our personal reputation, as well as the reputation of The Poly, unlike how it would affect the reputation of an anonymous Reddit user.
Since we have this personal accountability, articles also must meet our quality standards. For news articles, all angles must be covered fairly. A journalist should never hide a fact, even if it does not fit the narrative that they want. If it's discovered that a journalist hid a fact or did not fairly report an event, then it must be publicly corrected.
Getting all the necessary information to provide an accurate and unbiased context to events occurring in the RPI community is not easy and takes substantial effort from the author. It includes emailing administrators until they respond to get that important piece of information or statement that can completely change an outlook of an article. It means attending every Student Senate meeting and Executive Board meeting, digging through Morning Mail to see if there are any announcements that might get overlooked, reading the reports that RPI publishes, and researching the laws and reasons that may govern a decision that RPI makes.
All that effort takes time and energy which is why The Poly may not always be the source of breaking news. But it does make The Poly a source of fair and unbiased news, which in my view is more important than a rushed news piece. This effort to provide high-quality news also means that our pieces can give more context for decisions or include a more detailed explanation of the piece of information. A great example of the amount of effort that staff members put into making sure the article gives all the necessary context is the article by our new Editor in Chief Sarah Shiang about the updated Title IX policies. To get all of the context for the article, Sarah had to reach out multiple times to the Title IX coordinators to fully understand the effects of the updated policies. Sarah spent multiple months communicating and working on the article, but it paid off in a well-researched and informative piece.
As a former Editor in Chief, I hope to see The Poly not only exist for the foreseeable future but also grow and thrive, because it's an important part of the RPI community. I have full confidence in the new and future leaders of the club that they will continue the legacy of the paper by providing a high-quality paper for the RPI community.