Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

What does student journalism mean?

I wish I remembered why I came back to the Carletonian. I wrote an article my freshman fall about classes starting on Yom Kippur — looking back, it wasn’t a great article, but I cared about the subject. I didn’t like how that article was edited — it was on the front page, but it wasn’t my writing, so I wasn’t happy. I regret that now. I wish I had been happy the first time I was on the front page of the Carletonian. I didn’t write again except for one Bald Spot article until winter term.

I seem to have developed a habit of writing a reflection each year. My freshman year, it was on time at Carleton. I basically rewrote that article last year, but the original was better. Let me summarize it in one sentence: I can’t stop time, and that scares me. And then I wrote about how admin needed to take us more seriously, and to their credit, they have. They respond to our interview requests now, which I appreciate. It’s hard to be unbiased when people won’t talk to you (which, to anyone reading this, please take that seriously — we can’t cover anything fairly if you won’t talk to us).

Aldo, a previous Editor-in-Chief and friend of mine, wrote an article in the Star Tribune last year. He wrote about student journalism, and the difficulties that come with living in the community you’re writing about. He wrote about how the “stakes are a lot higher” with student journalism because, while professional journalists writing for larger communities can ignore negative comments, we live with the people we’re writing about. We can’t escape those criticisms.

My article about classes starting on Yom Kippur was flawed because I was too close to it, I cared too much. I was biased. And that’s the great problem of student journalism: we show up because we care. There’s no other reason to spend the amount of time writing and editing and designing that we do each week. Some days, usually around when we’re sending the paper off to the publisher and I’m tired and haven’t seen the sun in too many hours, I ask myself what we’re even doing anyway. 

But some days, I remember. As I’m walking to an interview about a time sensitive topic, as I’m listening to someone talk and I see their face light up as they tell me that this part is something I should definitely include, I know what we’re doing. We’re writing the news.

I don’t claim to be perfect. Aldo wrote in his letter to the next editors last year about the missing commas and the places where we messed up Associated Press (AP) style of grammar, and let me tell you, in the last year, I can guarantee I didn’t fix that. But maybe none of that matters anyway. What we’re doing is larger than AP style: we’re telling the story of what’s happening on this campus, in a time where publications are under attack across the country and when we know that we’ll hear about every mistake we make from our peers

We write about issues knowing our professors and peers will read them and may disagree. I know that unbiased coverage can often look biased to people who have strong opinions on a subject, I know that good news articles can’t make anyone happy. I’ve written news articles that people disagreed with. I explain the most controversial parts with quotes, I provide as much context as I had and I also know that people will still be unhappy. There’s nothing I can do about that. This is what journalism is. We don’t choose the facts, we don’t choose the quotes: it’s our job to pull everything together into a coherent article that reflects what’s actually happening.

I think I’m learning that journalism isn’t a career for those aiming to be popular. But I’m also learning that maybe, that’s ok. Freshman me would’ve been terrified by that. But freshman me was terrified of a lot of things — disappointing my professors, sending emails about interviews, not having enough friends, generally all of the things that freshmen worry about. That’s what this newspaper has taught me: it’s taught me not to be afraid to take risks.

To our readers: thank you for sticking with us, for trusting us to be a source of information with you. Here’s my promise to you for next year: I will make sure that the news we give you is as accurate, complete and unbiased as it can be. I promise you we will keep covering the stories that matter, and that we’ll cover them in a way that does justice to all sides of the question because that’s how journalism works. 

To the club leaders who came before me — in the Carletonian and the JSC — thank you. Thank you for trusting me with responsibilities and for believing in me when I didn’t. I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without the Carletonian. I’ve met interesting people, had conversations that completely changed my mind, learned what it means to be a journalist and learned to believe in myself because of this newspaper. 

I still miss you all sometimes, when it’s Thursday and the Carletonian Office starts feeling a little too empty, or when I’m walking to a JSC board meeting and thinking I wish I could tell one of last year’s seniors something. Some days it feels like this campus is filled with ghosts because even though I know the point of new leadership is that the old leadership leaves — people graduate, that’s how college works! — it still feels strange to do this without you. Your influence still shapes the way I understand club leadership: I wouldn’t know how to be a leader without all of you.

And to future Carletonian writers and leaders: what we’re doing matters. Don’t forget that. The issues we write about affect people on this campus and they matter. Accountability matters. Local journalism makes a difference: it lets people know what’s going on in their communities, whether it’s good or bad. 

I still can’t put into words what it was that brought me back to the Carletonian my freshman winter. It was a conversation late at night, and I left feeling inspired. I left feeling like I could make a difference, make this newspaper better. I wish I remembered what those changes I wanted to make were. But maybe it doesn’t matter. I’ve grown with this newspaper, I’ve watched the staff change, I’ve watched the type of content we publish change and I can say definitively we are not the paper we were three years ago. And all I can say is that this works because it matters to us. There are days in the last three years where this newspaper has been held together by a combination of scotch tape and sheer will power, mine and a lot of other people’s. What I’ve realized in the three terms I’ve been editor-in-chief is that that doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter how difficult this is sometimes, it matters that there continues to be enough willpower to keep this paper going. 

Because what we’re doing here matters. We cover the issues people care about. We write stories that spread information on a campus that desperately needs it. We are here, and we will continue to be.

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About the Contributor
Becky Reinhold
Becky Reinhold, Editor in Chief
I'm a junior Philosophy major, and I can usually be found in the basement of Anderson or wandering around Northfield. I like thunderstorms and writing articles around 2am. Becky was previously Managing Editor, Viewpoint Editor, and Design Editor.

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