Columns / Discourse / February 23, 2011

Thoughts from the Embers: Really, guys, it’s not that bad

This weekend, most of the staff of The Knox Student (TKS) went to Chicago to attend the Illinois College Press Association (ICPA) conference. An annual event, the ICPA convention is something TKS always attends. It includes workshops on journalism and law, as well as new forms of multimedia and journalistic ethics, amongst other things.

There is also an awards ceremony every year. Last year, TKS took home the first place award for general excellence in our division (non-daily newspapers at a school with under 4,000 students). This year, we took home more awards than we ever have (19) plus earned second place in general excellence in our division.

And yet, somehow, we on staff aren’t sure this is going to change the way we are seen by much of the student body. It’s not like we don’t hear the complaints about TKS, or that we don’t see people leaving critical comments on our website. And it’s true—constructive criticism is always good. But a lot of times, the criticism we get from the student body would not be described as “constructive.”

Here’s the thing about TKS: like many other groups at Knox, we are entirely student-run. It’s up to this staff, our writers and the personal initiatives of everyone here to make this newspaper as good as it can be, and to put out an issue every week. We are in the publication office from early afternoon on Wednesday until 11 p.m. or midnight—in past years we began production at 4 p.m. and wouldn’t leave the office until three or four in the morning. We have learned not to expect a thank-you for the work we put in, but we hope that maybe writing about what our work has earned us at ICPA, we can at least make people realize that the quality of our newspaper does get us places. Like, say, second place in the state this year.

Something that Knox students perhaps don’t realize is that it would be very easy for a student newspaper to simply stop existing. Take an example from fellow ICPA attendee The Leader, a student-run newspaper from Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Ill. Their college funding for the newspaper was taken away from them in the past year, so the staff pays for everything themselves, including getting to ICPA. But for students who would be unable to afford doing that, such as the staff of TKS, our status as a newspaper would quickly disappear. We urge our readers and our critics to think about the luxury of having a student newspaper that the school pays for, and what the student body would go on not knowing if not for TKS.

That being said, we hope students on this campus learn to appreciate the resource that is a student newspaper and, maybe some day, to appreciate TKS. We urge students to remember that TKS is a resource for the campus to learn about current events, but also a resource for you, the student, to make your own opinion public. Posting how you’re feeling on a given day on Facebook can only do so much. Our meetings for writers are open to campus (yes, anyone can come and take a story—all you have to do is take a basic journalism workshop, which is a one-time event). If you think you can help us in making TKS better, show up and do it. Even if you don’t want to take a story for our news or Mosaic section, you can still write us a letter to the editor or sign up to do a weekly column. And, why not? While we cannot afford to pay our writers, TKS can be a valuable outlet for anyone with an opinion. Our newspaper is not only distributed to campus and The Beanhive coffee shop on Simmons St., but also to our subscription list every week. Not to mention all the administrators, faculty, staff and prospective students that pick up a copy (and, oh, right, we’re online). Don’t underestimate the power of getting your voice out into the public sphere.

If ICPA is any indication, TKS has only been improving in recent years. If you think you can help us improve even more, you are encouraged to show up at meetings for writers and send us letters or columns.

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