The Fire This Time, the University’s self-described “students of color news magazine,” hit the newsstands Tuesday after a year-long hiatus. Since the paper’s last issue in spring 2009, its editors have worked to revamp the paper in a University class entitled “The Fire This Time Workshop,” taught by Professor Athelia Knight.
The Fire was founded in the spring of 2000 following two ethnicity-centered attacks on Georgetown student. The new publication looked to provide another outlet for voices on minority issues. The March issue’s letter from the editor by current editor-in-chief Trevor Jaikissoon (COL ’11), “On Fire for Change—The Fire This Time,” reaffirms The Fire’s mission and the University’s need for a multicultural publication in the wake of student protests against the April Fool’s edition of The Hoya in 2009 and The Heckler in December 2009.
Stephen Teague (COL ‘06), a former editor-in-chief of The Fire, said that while he had joined the paper to support its mission of speaking on issues concerning the minority community, the news magazine lacked adequate funding and staffing.
According to former Editor-in-Chief Yamiche Alcindor (COL ’09), The Fire started as an independent publication, but had no consistent source of funding. Alcindor said during her time at The Fire, she helped incorporate the newsmagazine under the University’s funding, which helped secure “a steady stream of resources.”
“I thought it would be better to cement the future of The Fire by affiliating it with the school,” Alcindor said. “This way we could be assured that the paper would not lose funding one year or fall through the cracks between leaders.”
While the funding problem was resolved, staffing issues persisted. Jaikissoon said last year The Fire had more board positions than it really needed and problems publishing consistently.
“We had difficulties drawing contributors so publication wasn’t as consistent as we would’ve liked,” current managing editor Alex Bledsoe (SFS ’12) wrote in an e-mail.
In the summer of 2009, Professor Dennis Williams, an Associate Dean for Students and Director of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access spoke to Professor Barbara Feinman Todd, the Journalism director in the Department of English asking her if she would help revamp The Fire.
“I think that the hope for the class is that we can provide resources to The Fire and generate more interest,” Feinman Todd said. “A class would attract more students, and we would have an experienced journalist.”
The class, in its seventh week, will be one semester long, and is taught by Knight, a journalist who had worked with The Washington Post for 33 years before coming to Georgetown.
The class focuses on the holistic process of developing a paper, including design and marketing, and Knight frequently brings in guest lecturers who have worked professionally in journalism.
“I want the class to be a working newsroom,” Knight said. “There is no typical day in the class.”
The editors said one of the paper’s goals for this year is to gain more exposure in the Georgetown community.
“The publication has been around since 2000 and if we ask the next two or three people that walk by if they’ve heard of it, they would say no,” Jaikissoon said. “I want there to be an image or a prestige to be associated with The Fire. It has an important role to play on campus.”
Information Technology director Lisa He (SFS ‘11) created a new logo for The Fire. She is currently working on a new design for the paper’s website. Jaikissoon said that he hopes The Fire will include writers other than board members soon, but for now, the only writers are the 12 board members who are taking the class.
However, editors say the mission of the paper will stay the same.
“I believe The Fire will fill the void in that has existed in the media of our campus—the positive and responsible representation of minority students and issues that are especially pertinent to students of color,” Bledsoe said.