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

Hoya Independence Must Involve the Masses

I have a confession to make: I can’t stand senior viewpoints.

For nearly four years, I’ve watched this newspaper’s departing staffers discuss the late nights, the disputes over the niceties of AP style, the friends they’ve made, the beer they drank, the controversies they covered and, inevitably, the feeling that it all just seemed too brief.

Not that any of that’s a bad thing; I feel all of it myself. But despite all the ink spilled and trees felled on account of our seniors each May, their writings do seem to pass all too quickly into the disregarded dustbin of Georgetown history.

This may lead my fellow editors – and perhaps the readers too – to think that I’m being a little bit hypocritical by even setting proverbial pen to paper here. They’re probably right.

But I’ve decided that I can rationalize this – at least to myself – if I leave THE HOYA and its readers not with a wistful reminiscence of my time in Leavey 421, but with a challenge for after I’m gone.

Many readers have doubtless heard or read during the past few years about this newspaper’s efforts to become an independent publication separate from the university and free from administrative oversight. I myself have spent years working on the project, meeting with administrators, talking with alumni, selling “Free THE HOYA” T-shirts in Red Square and, for the past year, chairing a special committee charged with finding a way to break away from the university.

But now, looking back, I can say unequivocally that THE HOYA’s independence movement has failed. It was destined to do so before it even began.

The situation is in no small sense our own fault. When given a choice between a challenging future and a comfortable status quo, we have too often chosen the latter. We have failed to articulate our case to the Georgetown community. We have chosen leaders too timid to make independence this newspaper’s highest priority. We have favored a tradition of mediocrity over the potential for excellence. We have been shortsighted.

But even if all the above were untrue, THE HOYA would still be missing the one indispensable ingredient for a successful independence campaign: You, the reader.

You’re critical to this enterprise because you’re the reason we’re interested in joining the ranks of top-tier independent student newspapers. Without you on board, the chances of success are nil.

But to convince you, we’re going to have to fundamentally retool the way we think about this paper’s future.

Independence isn’t ultimately about more money or a semblance of control over the profits we make now. (Much of that money is currently used to cover the deficits of our competitors.) It’s about changing the mindset of this newspaper.

For 87 years, THE HOYA has thought of itself as just another one of the university’s student clubs, though perhaps a tad more overworked and neurotic than average. But it could be so much more.

No other student group has an audience of 10,000. No other group serves as the principal watchdog over a university administration often beset by serious problems and clouded by secrecy. No other “club” has such a profound responsibility to the students, faculty, staff and alumni of this university.

Independence is not about new cameras or new computers. In the final analysis, it’s not even about quality – although the quality of a HOYA driven by motivated staffers and able to reinvest its profits would undoubtedly rise.

It is, rather, about divorcing this newspaper forever from its traditional “club” mentality. It’s about investing people in this newspaper. It’s about making us realize that we’re not working for our editor in chief or our board of directors. We’re working for you. And every single day we accept our status as a second-tier student newspaper, we fail you.

For the time being, though, we’ve accepted the status quo. For months, editors have negotiated with top administrators for half-measures giving us greater control over the money we make, with no concrete results. Just last month, in the midst of the most profitable year in this newspaper’s history, the university rejected our proposal to pay small stipends to staffers working 25 hours a week or more.

The situation is unfair. It’s unjust. It’s wrong. It stifles the kind of creativity and vision necessary to produce a great newspaper. But our response has been meek, when we have responded at all.

Independence as currently conceived will never succeed. The campaign requires a new ideology. It requires leadership with the courage to recognize the unique and overwhelming responsibility that should be this newspaper’s top priority. Above all, it requires convincing our readers that independence is about them, not us.

And even if independence, like these words, is ultimately consigned to the dustbin of Hoya history, we can at least say we tried.

Robert Heberle is a senior in the College. He is a former managing editor, senior news editor, contributing editor and member of THE HOYA’S Board of Directors.

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