Tyler O’Neil and I went to The New York Times this April for a conference on the future of journalism. There, we sat with student journalists from all over the country. One by one, they shared their stories about trying to find ways to reach more students and their articles about the monopoly of Sodexo food on their respective campuses. Then, it was time for the two kids from a small, private school in Des Moines, Iowa, to speak about the news that has occurred on their campus. Let’s just say the kids from the East Coast were surprised.
Drake University was brimming with news this year—an unfamiliar feeling that any former editor of The Times-Delphic can attest to. On our very first issue—which seems like years ago—we broke news about dozens of athletic suspensions due to alcohol abuse and the sad news of the death of a first-year student. From there, articles involving Student Senate, sexual assault, the Phi Delta Theta hazing, new pharmacy school requirements and Board of Student Communications funding made headline after headline.
We at the TD strive to bring the best and most accurate coverage to this campus, and I believe we succeeded at that. Our stories have been featured in the Chicago Tribune, the Omaha World Herald and the Huffington Post. We also redesigned the newspaper, work that has been recognized by the Mizzou Student Society for News Design.
Many of these recognized stories have also rocked the very foundation of the university, bringing negative publicity and heartbreak along the way. It was equally troubling for us in the newsroom and challenged us to our core as both students and journalists.
Personally, writing the stories on the sexual assaults and on the death of sophomore Ben Backstrom were some of the most difficult experiences of my life. In newspapers, the author must remove him or herself from the story and give the facts straight. But this is difficult when you work for a newspaper that serves such a small campus and you yourself are a student. Every police report I read that had the name of someone I knew made my heart sink further and further into my stomach. It’s different from a daily paper when these people are just another victim. At a college newspaper, they are your peers. You then question your role as a reporter and as a student, and how those compete at times.
Some have said that it is not the job of the student newspaper to report on these difficult events, but I join others in saying that it is exactly our role. In my mind, the TD is the main news source for events on our campus and we will remain that. The stories we write are sometimes difficult, but they are important. I hope that next year’s TD will continue to cover such events and challenge the norms of campus, not being afraid to upset others by our coverage. Sometimes, it’s OK to piss off President Maxwell or the student body president.
Many of the issues brought up this year are important to address in the future. We appreciate the actions done by Drake students and faculty to curb some of these issues. But most of these problems have not been solved and I’m not sure they can be by one university. My hope is that we as a community continue to come together as we have when times are difficult. The way the campus acted in this last week to support the friends and family of Ben Backstrom was incredible and solidified my belief in the character that defines Drake University.
This is my last issue as the editor-in-chief of The Times-Delphic. It has been the honor of my life to serve this role and I will miss my job tremendously. All of our success this year comes from the collective efforts of our entire staff and our friends and family who have supported us along the way. Take some time to look at the masthead at the bottom of this page to see all of the people who dedicate countless hours to one of the best student newspapers in the country.
To the people who have shared Meredith 124N with me this year: you were the best staff that any editor could ask for and I will always love and admire you. Thank you for one incredible year. You have lit my journalistic fire once more and allowed me to believe in the power of quality and unbiased news. Living in a country where the opposite is all too often accepted, it gives me confidence that there are people at Drake who still believe in its importance.
Vasilogambros serves as the editor-in-chief of The Times-Delphic and is a news/Internet journalism and politics double-major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.