Saturday, February 9, 2008

[Daily Barometer] A Columnist Attempts to the Defend the Baro

As soon as I read the first paragraph of this, I started laughing. I knew what was coming. And sure enough, a few paragraphs in:

And no, I'm not going after the old saw that "everyone makes mistakes." While that's true, obviously the whole point is to try to make as few mistakes as possible, especially in the journalism business. What I'm getting at, instead, is that there are actual decisions being made here. Those typos are made by real, fleshly fingers. Folks with names and birthdays answer the phone when you call. These aren't automatons, or even generic authority figures; these are your classmates, and that means you can talk to them. [emphasis added]

Actually, Rachel, I'm sorry, but that's not even remotely true. You call the Baro a "shadowy edifice." That's pretty accurate - and it gets to the heart of the problem. There's no understanding of the Baro by the rest of the OSU community. The Barometer is, and has been, almost completely closed to outside interactions. Sure - readers can submit letters or guest columns, but more often than not, we don't get a response. Often, the only sign we get as to whether or not our submission will appear in the paper is to read the paper and see if it shows up. That's not a normal mistake; that's bad practice.

This year, it's not been the typos that have frustrated readers - it's been the abysmally horrible coverage of even basic events... if they get covered at all. I understand that the Baro is really, really short on staff right now - but have you ever considered that one reason for that is that the Baro staff is a closed clique that does not invite participation? I can attest to this personally, having theoretically provided "oversight" for two years as a member of the near-useless Student Media Committee.


So if you do find yourself with a little extra time and a large desire to talk, don't just complain about your student paper - you are a student. You, personally, can be a key component in fixing what's broken, even if it's just by edging out the stuff you don't like. This isn't my intended future career either, but it is great fun and great practice. I'm amazed by how much I've learned and I'd love to see more people join in.

I think I've addressed this already, but let me reiterate: Just because it looks easy to join from the inside, or just because it was easy for you, doesn't mean that all those folks who criticize without joining the clique are lazy/mean/irresponsible. Maybe the Baro needs to do a little more active outreach to the OSU community, rather than arrogantly and naively wait for people to come to it (or simply expect that a column in the same paper that so many people don't read will have an effect).

Finally, as for the line "don't just complain about student paper" - the Baro is not the student paper of OSU, claims to the contrary notwithstanding. It's (mostly) financially independent, accepting no student fees, and it makes a constant point of claiming to be a professional paper. The Baro staff (and advisor) have long been insistent that the paper is in fact not beholden to students - and if that's the case, it's not a student newspaper. The Baro can't have it both ways. If it wants community participation (above and beyond the new and pretty cool ISOSU column), then it needs to be a genuine member of the OSU community - which means being accessible and responsive to the members of said community. As it stands, it's trying to have its cake and eat it too, and as a result it's starving. The only thing keeping it alive is tradition. If I were an advertiser, I'd be pulling my dollars as fast as possible after seeing the train wreck that the onetime best paper in the nation has become.

On the other hand, Rachel, your suggestion does seem made with genuine hope and goodwill. It would be great if people joined the Baro staff and contributed. It's a lot harder to criticize something you have ownership of.

Hey - maybe that's the deal: The students of OSU don't feel like they have ownership of the paper. Imagine that....


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