I arrived at my current, soon-to-be-former position by accident. At 11:58 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2014, a mere minute before deadline, I submitted my application to join this nonagenarian newspaper on a whim, never expecting to be accepted, much less become its editor-in-chief. Two weeks and one sartorially misguided interview outfit later, I joined The Hoya as a news writer. I have not looked back since.
Three years, two months and 10 days here have afforded me a multifaceted view of Georgetown. For all its undisguisable flaws and shrouded shortcomings, Georgetown is remarkable as an institution, and even more so as a community.
Every day at The Hoya, we have the opportunity to report on and lend a platform to students, faculty and administrators who seek to make this university a better, safer and more inclusive place. Sharing their stories has been nothing short of a fulfilling experience.
Yet college journalism is an enigma of an enterprise. For many of the stories that we publish, our audience and subject matter are one and the same.
When we decline to deliver puff pieces, we are criticized for not doing our jobs. When we cover our subjects in a manner that is unsatisfactory to them, in pursuit of objective reporting, we are accused of slanted journalism. We are written off by some readers as proponents of liberal bias and by others as upholders of unprogressive thought, whichever is more fitting to their ideological leanings.
The press is an easy target, because it cannot defend itself. Publications seldom respond directly to criticism, for better or worse. That some of our readers take advantage of this, in light of the growing trend of media-bashing in national politics, is unsettling to say the least.
Granted, many of the criticisms we receive are undoubtedly well-founded, and I will be the first to admit that. With every correction and clarification, we realize that our reporting and editorial judgment are far from perfect. As a training ground for journalists, we stress the need to learn from our mistakes, especially as journalism becomes an increasingly thorny practice.
Over the past year, I have found myself frequently ruminating on what motivates our staff. Our writers, editors, photographers, designers, videographers and business staff devote countless hours of their weekly schedules to unpaid — and occasionally thankless — work, sometimes only to be rebuked by tactless readers, many of whom have never stepped foot in a newsroom.
Some nights, as I sit in our overheated office, sunken into a disfigured couch, I wonder whether this is genuinely a worthwhile pursuit.
Of course, I would be remiss to discount the plentiful perks of working at The Hoya. Here, I have met some of Georgetown’s most talented and tireless individuals, and it is a privilege to have worked with and learned from so many promising young journalists.
But if finding a community and gaining professional experience were my sole incentives, I — as someone who has no intention of pursuing a career in journalism — would have looked elsewhere.
What I have come to realize is that being a staffer of The Hoya is rewarding precisely because of the challenges we encounter in our work. The pieces we publish can effect change in policy and culture, and with that comes a certain accountability to our readers and fellow students. I have been proud to see our staff work with members of the community in bringing important issues to the forefront of campus dialogue.
And as for the critics, they are in fact the ones who push us to be more careful and vigilant reporters. Every anonymous comment on our website, every misunderstanding about the independence of our editorial board and every allegation of “fake news,” jocular or otherwise, reminds us that our standing as a publication depends on the relationship we have with our readers.
Ahead of our centennial, The Hoya has sought to redefine our role and value proposition. In the last year, we expanded to become an online daily publication, allowing us to connect with readers on a more frequent basis. As we evolve to meet the ever-changing standards of 21st century journalism, we also maintain our core responsibility of serving the community. I can assure readers that our best work is yet to come.
Lastly, to every staffer of The Hoya, thank you. Your work is important, and while it may be difficult at times, it is worthwhile. It has certainly been for me.
Toby Hung is a senior in the College and the 143rd editor-in-chief of The Hoya. His term ends Saturday.