Editorial: Paid Preservation of Communication
The need for paid positions at student organizations has recently been called into question. The Student Referendum is bringing attention to compensation for student senators and the Student Finance Committee. Now that the SFC has finally begun responding to organizations that submitted budgets to the fall appeals process, paid positions at a variety of student organizations are being threatened.
The Oberlin Review, WOBC and The Grape have been specifically targeted by the SFC, as we are the three largest student organizations on campus. The Review alone employs nearly 40 students part time. However, these organizations are the three most significant outlets for community voice. To keep these organizations viable they must be structured and stable, which requires continual financial investment. To cut significantly into these groups’ current budgets would cripple us and thereby deprive the community at large.
A good newspaper is essential to Oberlin. The Review delivers news to students and townspeople, as well as alumni who want to keep tabs on their alma mater. It is a venue for students and townspeople to learn about shows, lectures and events in which they can partake. The Review is also a venue though which other student organizations can speak. The Review presents an opportunity for students to enter the field of journalism, an opportunity that is otherwise neglected as there are only a handful of journalism classes offered in the Rhetoric and Composition department. Additionally, as Oberlin’s paper of record we have been crucial in documenting and safeguarding the College’s history since 1874 and we continue to do so each week.
Publishing a newspaper is a labor-intensive business. We work long hours, without the option of leaving until our job is done and a respectable paper is produced. We juggle the processes of article writing — phone calls, interviews, fact-checking, research — while remaining mindful of ethics, libel threats and our ever-increasing standards. Reporters and editors work under uncompromising deadlines, and salaries provide critical incentive for staff to prioritize their work for the Review above their other commitments.
The Review is unique in that the community expects something tangible in return for our wages. Unlike some organizations, the Review staff is constantly kept honest by the quality of our product, and we must show each week that our allotted funds are being used efficiently.
Five years ago, the Review was at a low point, operated only by a handful of students, who were understandably crushed under the immense task of completing a paper each week. The budget of five years ago is a poor choice of benchmark for the stipend required to produce a high quality newspaper. If our budget were to be slashed now, all the improvements laboriously accumulated since then would be lost, and we would no longer be able to maintain our rigorous standards.
The Review has been making strides over the past few years to increase in breadth of coverage, quality and credibility. Our scope has expanded to include coverage of Oberlin City news, and we hope to enter more journalism competitions in the near future. We have plans to regularly invite professional journalists to speak at Oberlin, who respect what we are doing, and who can give us insight into the field and broaden the appeal of journalism to the greater Oberlin community. Although in recent years, Oberlin has not been at the top tier of college journalism, we are rapidly climbing. Just earlier this week NYTimes.com picked up a Review article for their College section.
But in its trajectory from the hinterlands of college journalism to a sustained respectability, the Review needs stability, which requires consistent maturation of writers to copy editors to section editors to managing editors. This can only be achieved if those positions remain, and have time to rise in prestige and expectations. We need consistency to turn out a better paper, and cutting into the structure we have labored to create would be a big step backward. The institutions of communications on campus are the face and voice of Obies. So SFC, when you are considering lowering our budget and the budgets of organizations like us, please consider the service that we do for the College and community at large.