The moment I finally understood why THE HOYA is truly important to Georgetown – the moment I first appreciated why I was spending countless hours on the job, why I was poring over my work and the work that I was responsible for – was a moment when THE HOYA’s future was grimly uncertain.
After THE HOYA’s infamous 2009 April Fools’ issue hit stands, I sat on a panel in front of over 100 members of the Georgetown community who believed THE HOYA’s credibility and accountability were questionable to nonexistent, I learned that THE HOYA’s independence movement had once again come to a screeching halt, and then, I was elected managing editor.
I looked at the state of the staff and at the state of the organization, and I saw disappointment, shame and, above all, uncertainty. I cannot say I was unfazed by the situation I was walking into, but I was driven by a genuine belief in the potential greatness of THE HOYA and by an acute passion to do my part to see us learn, grow and rightfully assume our role as Georgetown University’s newspaper of record. Still, I thought that stepping in as a leader of THE HOYA at that crucial point in the organization’s life would be the greatest challenge I would face during my Georgetown career.
But throughout my term as the 136th editor-in-chief of THE HOYA, and especially over the past few weeks, I have become increasingly aware of what I am sure is at once the most difficult part of working at THE HOYA and the greatest challenge I have faced in my time here. It is not the unhealthy sleep cycle, the abandoned schoolwork or the tumultuous relationships with friends who never quite understand why we make so many sacrifices for something so seemingly fleeting. It is more difficult than picking up the pieces of what was, in many ways, a broken organization in the wake of the April Fools’ controversy.
The most difficult part of working at THE HOYA is the constant struggle to be at once an objective watchdog of the Georgetown community and an integral, vocal part of that community.
THE HOYA is not alone in this contradiction of identity. All community-based newspapers face the effects of this paradox: How can we write an editorial criticizing the student body when we are in fact part of that student body? How can we keep reporting heinous sexual assaults and maintain such detachment? How can we make sure that our articles and photographs truly represent our community?
The most important question for me in the past few weeks, however, is even more elusive: What are the ethical implications of reporting on a community that we are a part of?
This is an extremely complicated issue that cannot be resolved by simply publishing a wider range of viewpoints or covering a more diverse spectrum of student affairs news. All journalists abide by a code of ethics, a sort of Hippocratic Oath of newspapers that is driven by the underlying principles of “seek truth and report it,”minimize harm,”act independently” and “be accountable.” But when both our sources and our subjects are fellow students, it is that much more difficult to act in accordance with that code.
In many instances throughout my term, I have had to weigh our responsibility to publish professional, informative articles against our responsibility to treat our fellow students – both sources and subjects – with a particular sensitivity. I have made significant content decisions to cut information that would easily fly through the newsroom straight to the stands of a newspaper not responsible to Georgetown. I have granted anonymity to students who would never be considered for anonymity by a newspaper not responsible to Georgetown. The fact of the matter is: We cannot operate in the same way that national publications do because we are, at the end of the day, responsible to Georgetown.
The challenge, therefore, is to put out a product as credible as that of national publications while, in our own context, always remembering our responsibility to our community. That is what I realized in that moment a year and a half ago; I knew that I would always be committed to the success of THE HOYA, although at the time success seemed so distant.
I realized that THE HOYA is critical to the Georgetown community precisely because of the contradiction of our identity. We have the unique opportunity to speak to Georgetown and to speak for Georgetown, informing our readership so that they may spark change in what is lacking at our university.
But we cannot do it alone. We have improved, but we cannot truly succeed in speaking to and for Georgetown until more members of the community recognize that THE HOYA is the vessel through which the public dialogue vital to any community must occur. I urge all our readers to take up a pen and contribute – submit a viewpoint, write a letter to the editor, pitch a story idea.
There is work to be done, both at THE HOYA and Georgetown. But with the right ingredients and the right intentions, improving one can go hand in hand with improving the other.
arissa Amendolia is a senior in the College and the 136th editor-in-chief of THE HOYA. “