Pushing papers all around campus

April 3, 2008

Seeing that The Fire This Time’s latest edition had come out gave me a strange thrill.

I rushed to pick it up—not necessarily because what’s inside would be interesting (much of it was) but because I love newspapers and magazines, especially little, punchy ones, and the ones that populate this campus. Unlike many universities without a real undergraduate journalism program, we have myriad publications on campus.

There’s the Voice, of course, the reliable source for news and center-left opinion, and the Hoya, our stodgy rival, still a must-read, if only to inspire chagrin when they catch a story we didn’t, or to be mocked. Georgetown even has an Independent, whose true purpose I have yet to understand.

But The Fire… satisfies because of the strength of its voice. It’s compelling and proud, and even if its production values are sometimes shoddy, it does its job: the magazine is a window into a culture and community at Georgetown that I don’t always have access to.

Of course, I have friends who are “people of color,” as The Fire… puts it, but the self-segregation that is a reality on campus keeps our discussions of serious issues somewhat limited and certainly safe, despite recent positive efforts on campus to support more community dialogue.

Even when we have those rare uncomfortable conversations about the role of race, about the challenges of being part of a minority community, there can never be enough empathy and solidarity. Each time I read The Fire… and learn about the frustrations and the victories, the nerve centers of agreement and disagreement, among Georgetown’s underserved minorities, I think that if everyone paid more attention to each other’s words, we’d have a tangible campus culture that is bigger than basketball.

The Fire… and its staff weren’t waiting on my praise, of course, but their hard work deserves admiration.

Likewise, The Federalist, Georgetown’s premiere conservative publication, is similarly delightful. I can’t think of an article in their pages I would agree with, but it doesn’t (always) follow in the vein of other campuses’ conservative rags by seeking controversy for the sake of controversy. Interested liberal readers will find arguments and perspectives that often bring a grimace to their faces. To stop reading at the grimace is a sin; the imperative is to remind yourself why you are grimacing, to engage with the article on its merits. Conservatives also need a voice on campus that is more than occasional op-eds in the two main papers.

Of course, in the wider world, magazines are dying. Our news sources are too commercialized for the big pieces that those of us behind these little college magazines wish to grow up and create, and they are becoming more and more polarized. We hope that as many windows will open as doors close, as the Internet and other wonders of the modern age promise. But mass communication—even when “mass” means the nearly 10,000 folks who populate Georgetown—won’t ever cease, and the written word remains the most efficient way to achieve that.

It may not surprise you to learn that polling from the Pew center reports that over half the country thinks that the press is often inaccurate and politically biased. (Only 32 percent think the press is immoral, so they’ve got that going for them.) Nonetheless, the press can still do good; look at the D.C. Council’s recent actions to repeal a law that gave landlords the right to let their buildings fall into disrepair, forcing out their poor tenants so their buildings can be sold to developers. In part, the law was repealed due to the reporting of The Washington Post on the dire results of the statute.

All of Georgetown’s papers put together are far from being the Washington Post. But there are still many stories to be told here on campus, more solidarity to be found, more dissent to be published, more criticism to be leveled. There’s work enough for many little magazines, it seems.

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