It’s no question at this point that The Whit does exemplary work. We’ve won awards for our work; we’ve been linked to by the New York Times; we conduct investigations to bring important topics to the forefront; we report breaking news on campus to keep the university community informed.
To do this, we put in several hours of work each week to create the print issues you see around campus, and we collectively write and edit more than 20 articles every week of the semester, which comes to at least 500 articles during any given academic year. All this while being severely underpaid. On top of that, we also have our required coursework to do because — oh yeah — we’re still students.
With our consistent levels of success as an institutional organization for the past 83 years, you would think that Rowan University — which often lauds the accomplishments of its students, alumni and professors on the university website and on social media — would similarly tout our work. But it appears this is not the case.
At the time of writing this article, not once had the university shared or promoted something The Whit staff had written. However, perhaps by mere coincidence, Rowan retweeted one of our recent pieces today while we were in the process of reviewing and editing this piece. This is the first time in recent memory that the university has done so.
On Twitter, Rowan primarily shares links derived from Rowan Blog and Rowan Today. While these are valuable sources of information in their own right — Rowan Blog particularly features the work of students — they undeniably have a veneer of PR. Most of the other content on their Twitter feed also originates from somewhere within the Rowan realm: IRT, Gourmet Dining, Rowan Medicine and more.
However, there are times that Rowan does share information and news articles from outside sources, such as Press of Atlantic City and Choose New Jersey. The Rowan News Twitter account shares even more non-Rowan derived content, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, nj.com and The Burlington County Times.
As the student newspaper on campus, we have the unique position of being both part of the Rowan community and being it’s only print news source. We experience what the rest of the Rowan community does every day, which privies us to story leads outside media don’t have access to. And as the only newspaper on campus, we’re the only Rowan news source that doesn’t cater to maintaining a specific (read: positive) image of the university.
This isn’t to say we only publish stories that cast Rowan in a negative light. The reality is we cover things that are important for the Rowan community to know and understand, regardless of the angle. We often write articles that are complimentary of the university, but we also write articles that are critical of the university.
Why is it, then, that Rowan doesn’t share what we write on a regular basis? The one retweet mentioned above doesn’t do justice to the 500+ articles we publish every year. We don’t expect them to share pieces that are critical of some aspect of the university — they do still have an image to maintain, afterall. But sharing some of the articles we write that highlight the accomplishments of people in the Rowan realm would be a great way to further bolster their image. This is especially true of Whit articles that highlight people and topics that haven’t already been promoted on Rowan’s various social media.
Sharing our work would also be a great way to draw from the talents of Rowan students instead of relying on outside news organizations, which would help the university further highlight and promote student successes.
Additionally, based on a search of Rowan’s website, The Whit has only been mentioned in passing or on departmental and organizational pages. The Rowan website even mentions the accomplishments former Whit writers have achieved after their graduation. If the fact that accomplished journalists have started as Whit writers is important enough to share, why isn’t it just as important to share the work of those just beginning that journey?
As relative beginner journalists, some of us — especially newer writers — may lack confidence in our journalistic abilities. If Rowan were to highlight even a few of our pieces on social media each year, it would surely give student journalists a needed boost that can push them to accomplish bigger and better things once they graduate. This simple gesture would also demonstrate that Rowan values student journalism.
Sharing our work may also turn out to be the best way for Rowan to attract new students interested in studying or practicing journalism. By sharing what we’ve written, it shows prospective students that the university values what students have to say, and specifically shows them the quality of work they too could one day create.
To be clear: A journalist’s job is not to do PR, it’s to evaluate the world around us in order to inform people. That’s exactly what we do. We stand only to educate the Rowan community. If Rowan shared our work, it would expand our reach as a news source, and it would serve as yet another way for the university to promote the success of its community. Even if they only shared our positive content.
For comments/questions about this story, tweet @TheWhitOnline.