OPINION: The DePaulia staff looks back

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Editor’s Note: Every year, The DePaulia’s Opinions section is a place for members of the DePaul community to come together and engage with ideas worth sharing. In our final issue of the 2018-2019 academic year, we’re dedicating a part of that space to the reflections and experiences of our editorial staff. What we’ve learned, what we’ve loved, what we need to improve on. 

Benjamin Conboy, Editor-in-Chief:

I became the editor-in-chief amid something of a downturn for our paper at the end of last year’s school year. It was a time when simply being able to put out 28 pages of news, opinions, arts & entertainment and sports stories every week seemed heroic. 

We had to figure out some staffing issues and plant our feet. We slowly but surely got everything under control, and set to work on doing what we do. 

Since the beginning of this academic year, we put out 812 pages of news. That’s like a full Harry Potter book, but with better stories. The staff has done this with such grace that it no longer feels heroic. They set a new standard.

I’m graduating, so I’m passing the torch to the next crop of DePaulia editors and writers, many of whom I have come to know well and am blessed to count as colleagues, but also as friends. In the early days of my tenure as the editor, I offered reporting and editing advice to them. But lately, they’ve begun offering advice to me. 

Next year’s staff will certainly achieve great things. They have already shown themselves to be fearless reporters, beautiful writers and expert page designers. The DePaul community will owe them a debt of gratitude for the service that they will provide — for free, mind you — to our 28,000-strong slice of Chicago.

Emma Oxnevad and Ella Lee have proven to be a dogged investigation duo, holding power to account and breaking big stories. Mackenzie Murtaugh has established herself as a delightful writer who tells human stories with care and compassion. Lacey Latch, next year’s managing editor — well, don’t piss her off. 

Next year’s editor-in-chief, Shane Rene, asked me at the end of last year who I thought the best writer on staff was. At the time, the staff was a little thin. 

I, rather arrogantly, replied that I thought I was (for the record, he agreed). 

That is no longer the case. Shane surpassed me in writing ability this year. I knew it when I copy edited his review of the third season of “High Maintenance.” 

So don’t be surprised when The DePaulia you knew this year is unrecognizable in September. I know I won’t be. 

 

Shane Rene, Managing Editor:

Good intentions can be a curious thing. They seem foolproof at first — as long as your intentions are pure, nobody can fault you, right? But that’s not always the case, as we learned at The DePaulia this year.  

By nature, journalists generally keep their intentions at the front of their mind. And that is what The DePaulia was doing when we published a photo of a brave woman fighting back tears at a microphone as she shared her story of sexual assault at DePaul’s “Take Back the Night,” event on April 15. 

The photo was powerful, moving even, and would have been selected by almost any photographer or editor at any professional or collegiate newspaper to run with the story. Our intention was to replicate those emotions as close as possible to the real event. 

Not long after our newspapers hit the newsstands the Monday following that event, The DePaulia found itself under fire from the subject of the photo for exploiting her experience to drive clicks to our website and social media. When DePaulia staffers heard the news, many were heartbroken. There is nothing worse than hearing that a real-life victim has been harmed by your work. Hearing people say that The DePaulia doesn’t care about survivors of sexual assault was hard to swallow and couldn’t be further from the truth — if it was, we would have never covered the event in the first place.   

We stood by our decision to publish that photo, and still do, but elected to take it down because we didn’t want to cause any more undue harm. We can’t argue with someone claiming to be hurt by our reporting.  Then we got hit from the otherside, with well-qualified journalism professors saying that we set a dangerous precedent by allowing a subject of a story to impact what we do and do not publish. And they were right, too. Good intentions, it turns out, are only half the battle.     

 

Mackenzie Murtaugh, News Editor:

This year, The DePaulia took on topics and criticisms we had yet to discover and learn from. From the administration to ethical debates to personal accounts of adversity, we tackled them with integrity and, at times, discomfort. 

I spent the last year-and-a-half at the Opinions desk, crafting criticisms on politics, culture and the university. I developed my critical and editorial skills, but I knew that I wanted to do something more with my time on the paper. 

After stepping into the News section as the section editor this past quarter, we wanted to ensure the DePaul community would constantly come back to the paper for the information least talked about on campus. My proudest moment was when I spoke to a formerly homeless student who lives in a house affiliated with DePaul for housing insecure students. He reflected on his past with pride and passion, unable to allow his adversity to overshadow his future. By letting me highlight the issues of housing insecure on college campuses, more students can reflect on their own privilege and recognize that the student body is much more diverse, and hurt, than it seems. 

Looking into the future, our readers can expect the same unbiased and fair reporting we have strove to achieve this year. We will continue to highlight underrepresented issues on campus and in the city, and we hope our readers enjoy reading them as much as we appreciate reporting on them. 

 

Emma Oxnevad, Assistant News Editor:

When I was hired as assistant news editor at the end of my freshman year, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had no experience working as an editor and was unsure of how I would fit in the role. While it’s uncertain if and when I’ll ever truly get a hold of InDesign, it has been a great year working for The DePaulia.

My favorite story that I worked on this year has to be my story with Ella on the issues with DePaul’s Title IX department. I have absolutely no formal education in investigative reporting, and it was a great lesson in teaching oneself and learning from experience. While working on the story, I became very attached to the issue and I want to give thanks to everyone who spoke to us on their experiences with the department. It was incredibly rewarding to publish the story after being up to our eyeballs in information, and I hope to see some legitimate change come from the reporting.

My first year at The DePaulia has been such a stressful, educational, and rewarding time. Given my lack of experience when I first started, I was very intimidated by the staff and felt unqualified to be on board with older students who had a lot more experience than me. It didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable with the staff, and they’re all great people to be around in addition to being talented journalists. Thanks for a great year, and I’m looking forward to more fun next year!

 

Lacey Latch, Arts & Life Editor:

This was my second year as the Arts & Life editor and I’ve had some tremendous opportunities presented to me through this position. And while meeting celebrities is always as cool as you’d expect, most of my favorite experiences took place in the DePaulia office as we spent every Friday and Sunday putting together a 28-page paper that we can be proud of. The DePaulia staff are some of the hardest-working people I’ve had the pleasure to meet and it’s a privilege to work with them week after week, reporting on the things that matter to us and our fellow DePaul students. 

A personal reporting highlight for me was the week I spent with DePaul’s ROTC students, joining them in class and during training to share their story. Ultimately, the story ran as a two-page Focus spread including my feature and my photos of them. This would not have been possible without the Military Science department accepting me with open arms and agreeing to let me in on their routine. For me, this reaffirmed the important role of relationships with the community when it comes to effective reporting. To this day, it remains the story of which I am proudest.

 

Ella Lee, Focus Editor:

Some of the best “real-life” journalism experience I have had so far has been acquired during my time working for The DePaulia.

This year, I was given the opportunity to write about our university’s Title IX department. The article’s topic was sensitive, and oftentimes, painful to discuss with sources, staff members and my co-writer, Emma Oxnevad, alike. The sources I spoke with shared with me their most personal stories, and in turn, they put their trust in me to share those stories, to hold accountable the people who had wronged them or made them feel uncomfortable at their own school. For me, this story emphasized the gravity of the work I do and how important it is to lift up the voices of those that are oftentimes diminished by those in high positions.

In the same issue, we published a piece I wrote about a campus event, Take Back the Night. The reaction was vastly different. When an image the editors chose to accompany the article was deemed insensitive by the subject, the social media and real-life backlash was vast. While the photo wasn’t my choice, much of the online hate was directed toward my article because of its association with the image. Again, the gravity of journalism and its impact — intentional or not — was revealed to me, but in a very different way.

 

Bianca Cseke, Online Editor:

I had no idea what to expect from my experience at The DePaulia. That sounds strange coming from someone who had almost four years of student media experience under their belt from their undergrad school’s paper. Yet all I knew coming into DePaul for grad school was that I wanted somewhere I could keep writing news and grow from a decent writer to a great one, and that I couldn’t imagine giving up student media since it had literally shaped me into the person I am today. 

So becoming online editor, particularly before the academic year was even finished, wasn’t something I would’ve predicted, but it’s given me a job to look forward to, talented colleagues to be around and a way to feel more connected to DePaul, and that’s something I can only be grateful for. I can say I’m proud of the paper’s improved online presence. 

There’s so much more I want to do to make it even better next year, like more multimedia content on a weekly basis, daily original content, a more user-friendly website, an email newsletter and better engagement of our audience on social media. I’m glad I’m lucky enough to have another shot at it at The DePaulia.