Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

HAWKINSON: Break Barriers To Journalism

On Oct. 23, 2021, when I got a phone call offering me the position of The Hoya’s 148th editor-in-chief, the first words out of my mouth were not “thank you” or “I’m so excited.” Much to my embarrassment, I instead asked, “Are you serious?” 

My disbelief stemmed from a feeling of deep-seated otherness that had pervaded my time at The Hoya. When my first mentor at The Hoya took me to dinner about halfway through my first semester at Georgetown University, he sat me down and told me The Hoya wasn’t built for people like us: those who received Pell Grants, relied on financial aid and prioritized our work-study jobs. 

For five semesters, I had watched wealthy, prep-school-educated students rise up in The Hoya and prepare for careers in journalism by quitting their part-time jobs to make time for our organization. Meanwhile, I fought to continue climbing the ranks of The Hoya while balancing multiple part-time jobs.

Certainly, my experience stemmed from a cultural problem at The Hoya. Sixty percent of our staff do not receive any financial aid, according to our Fall 2022 financial diversity survey. With a legacy of wealthy students came a legacy of classist microaggressions and a work environment that rewarded students without jobs on top of The Hoya. In light of this, it is our staff’s responsibility to dedicate ourselves to fighting classism in both our reporting and in our newsroom. 

However, we cannot win this fight alone; we can only do so much without dedicated, structural action from university administrators. Currently, because of university and administrative barriers, we find ourselves without key educational resources and the capacity to pay staffers, both of which are essential to our ability to support low-income students.

In order to support socioeconomic accessibility at The Hoya and other student media organizations like The Voice, Georgetown University administrators must hire a media advisor — a position that has been empty since May 2022, when our last advisor left — as well as take steps to open doors for staff payment in the future. 

The Hoya and The Voice have been without a university-appointed, university-paid media advisor for six months. The university pays this advisor — who must be a professional journalist with significant experience in the field — to provide our Board of Editors with weekly feedback and coordinate trainings with industry professionals. It is the responsibility of the Center for Student Engagement to find a candidate to fill this role, yet it has remained empty for six months.

This lack of an advisor significantly diminishes the educational experience for many of our staffers, myself included. For low-income students, every minute of the day counts: Between jobs, courses and demanding extracurriculars like The Hoya, each and every hour of the day must provide a clear path toward a larger goal after graduation. Furthermore, journalism internships — which could theoretically fill in this educational gap — are still largely unpaid, curtailing access even further for low-income students. 

When The Hoya does not have a mentor to provide feedback and coordinate training, staffers who cannot afford to pursue other educational opportunities in the industry lose an irreplaceable resource. To support low-income students, university administrators must fulfill their promise and fill this role immediately.

Furthermore, The Hoya — unlike other student newspapers across the country — cannot pay our staffers, despite our organization providing accessible, real-world journalism experience to students that extends beyond what the Georgetown journalism program can offer through technical training in classes. 

While The Hoya used to pay staffers through stipends, the practice stopped in the mid-2000s and has been unable to resume because of a lack of university support to coordinate payment or establish a work-study program. When our leadership positions demand 20-plus hours of work per week, students like me must choose between sacrificing our mental and physical health or quitting The Hoya.

The best way to ensure the long-term inclusion of low-income students is university support to pay The Hoya’s staffers. Because we are an access to benefits organization — which means we receive our funding from the university and must make all purchases through university channels — we cannot pay staffers without administrators’ permission and support, even if we had the funding to do so. Whether through federal work-study, a stipend program or something else entirely, the university has a duty to ensure its organizations are socioeconomically accessible to all.

For the last 103 years, wealthy students have been at the forefront of this institution. I hope the next 100 years are similarly overwhelmed with the presence of low-income students on our staff, in our leadership and across our newsroom. 

Katie Hawkinson is a senior in the College and the 148th editor in chief of The Hoya. Her term ends Saturday.

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  • S

    Sterling GuNov 27, 2022 at 10:53 am

    You have been an incredible editor-in-chief –– congratulations, Katie! I agree wholeheartedly with your calls to action. The university needs to do more to support student journalism and break down barriers to access, especially when it has the means to do so. Sincerely, Sterling.