Editorial: The physical labor of student journalists is not a public commodity

Journalists use many tools for the trade, including their time and energy. - Editor-in-Chief / Miguel Martinez

Every week at Rowan, there are numerous events that are culturally, socially and politically important. From art gallery openings and climate change discussions, to SGA Senate meetings and soccer games – what’s clear is that our robust and diverse Rowan community is thriving.

As a student newspaper with a small staff of writers, the prospect of covering all of this diversity can be both exciting and daunting. On one hand, we have the immense honor of platforming meaningful stories about our university. On the other hand, editorial decisions about which stories to platform will always leave some feeling unrepresented by our coverages.

Despite publishing a 20-page paper every week, “The Whit” is a small organization; on any given week, “The Whit” may only have a handful of non-beat reporters to cover campus news. Important stories fall through the cracks in our pursuit to cover other, equally important stories. It’s one inevitable form of human error associated with journalism.

Some events, like SGA Senate meetings, need to be covered weekly; for that coverage to exist requires a physical human body in that room. Meanwhile, breaking news can quickly become a priority for other writers. The result? On a night when Rowan is hosting a South Asian cultural festival, a Holocaust survivor speaker and an artist talk at the Art Gallery, “The Whit” may only have one reporter who is available. Whether we like it or not, we are forced to make difficult choices.

The best we can do is remain conscious of our biases and do our best to address them. If one story features the same kind of event or topic that we’ve covered in previous issues, it may be passed over for a story that explores less covered themes, populations and experiences.

For instance, past issues have touched upon mental health extensively. If we do not cover mental health in a subsequent issue, it is to offer our resources to other areas – not because we have stopped caring about the topic of mental health.

In an ideal world, “The Whit” would have a staff large enough to cover every event we find to be in line with our journalistic and personal values. This Editorial is not the place to lament the current state of American print journalism, but it is the place to note that it isn’t easy to find student writers who want to get involved, put in the effort and be present at events that they may not personally care all that much about.

Staff Writers are usually full-time undergraduate students who are already overworked from a full load of classes, entirely unpaid and extremely talented.

Aside from sub-sub-minimum-wage editor stipends, “The Whit” is a pro bono service to the Rowan University community. There is no profit to be made here. Time spent reporting and editing could easily be used for a part-time job or doing homework.

Every single person involved with this publication is making a financial and academic sacrifice, and we are doing it for the benefit of the hyper-local journalism that is so important to us and to the university at large.

So here’s the bottom line: if there is an event that “The Whit” did not cover that you believe to have been important and newsworthy, know that we sincerely regret not being able to platform that story. We do understand our duty to represent the cross-sectional interests of the university. We are proud to represent a population as diverse and as active as Rowan’s. And we will of course continue to push our entire membership to be the best writers, reporters, and editors possible.

Having a larger staff would of course alleviate some of the pressures of event coverages. If you or someone you know is interested in contributing to “The Whit,” feel free to reach out over email to either the Editor-in-Chief or to one of the section editors. We would love to have you on board.

For comments/questions about this story, email editor@thewhitonline.com or tweet @TheWhitOnline.