It’s hard out there for a conservative.
That’s what J.P. Medved (MSB ’09) thought when he was still a high school student looking at Georgetown, where he saw the entire right side of the political spectrum left without an outlet to trumpet its convictions.
So when he came to the Hilltop last year as a freshman, Medved, along with a few friends, started the Georgetown Federalist, an alternative newspaper that is officially nonpartisan but dedicated to conservative and libertarian principles. Through that lens, the Federalist’s pages touch on a range of topics – its most recent issue, which appeared last month, contained a story on Georgetown’s Ryan Hall and Mulledy Building, as well as commentary’s on today’s elections.
“We don’t specifically advocate for any party,” Medved says. “We don’t impress any kind of political ideology on people.”
The Federalist has no offices and little infrastructure, so to get an issue out once a month, as the staff strives to do, they follow a production process that Medved says is “pretty ad hoc.” Content is mostly determined at informal staff meetings in Sellinger Lounge, and production takes place in Medved’s dorm room, a lounge or the library.
Medved and his staff at first considered applying for funding as a university publication, but were wary about submitting to Media Board guidelines. And so they found funding from a different source, an Arlington, Va.-based organization called the Leadership Institute.
The LI calls itself “the premier training ground for tomorrow’s conservative leaders” and its Campus Leadership Program seeks to find those leaders on college campuses. ichelle Miller, the communications director for the LI, says that the CLP sends field representatives to campus to identify conservative students, and then provides students with $500 grants to start their own publications. Since the CLP launched in 1997, she says, it has funded around 140 publications.
The Federalist obtained one of those grants to pay for start-up costs. Before starting work on their first issue over winter break last year, a few staffers went to Virginia to participate in a workshop run by the LI. Medved says the workshop covered a range of topics, from what kind of stories to run to what to do if the paper runs afoul of university administrators.
“They were very helpful,” Medved says.
Now, Medved says the Federalist receives most of its money from alumni and community donations to cover operating costs, which run to about $640 per issue. In the roughly 10 months the paper has been on campus, it has expanded its staff considerably and now calls itself “Georgetown’s preeminent right-of-center publication.”
The Federalist has also joined the Collegiate Network, a group of nearly 100 conservative college newspapers that includes the GW Patriot, the Harvard Salient and the Dartmouth Review. Medved says the staff has applied from grants from the CN, which range between $500 and $3,000.
But while the Federalist is still a relatively new addition to campus, it is the latest addition to what has become a tradition among campus conservatives trying to find their own niche in campus media. The Georgetown Academy launched in 1990, and the Georgetown Independent started in 1995 as a right-leaning newspaper but has since become a university publication and lost its conservative outlook.
David Beer (COL ’07), the editor of the Academy, says that while the conservative journal tries to publish monthly, it has not come out as much as the staff would like in recent years, and they now strive to publish a minimum of four issues each year.
Beer says that the Academy, which receives funding from the CN, has been most relevant when events on campus present themselves for discussion, like the removal of crucifixes from certain university classrooms and proposed changes to the English curriculum.
Beer says that the Academy has lasted throughout its 16 years because of the help of active alumni and a board of directors that has built an institutional memory. Furthermore, the publication thinks of itself differently than the Federalist Beer says.
“The point of the Academy isn’t to give legitimacy to the arguments,” he says. “It’s perpetually bringing up the same questions so people keep having the same conversations.” The Federalist, he says, errs in trying to present content in a traditional news format.
“There isn’t a whole of content to that issue,” he says.
Martha Swanson, director of student programs, says that the Federalist can distribute on campus because it is a student-run organization, but that it would not receive the same treatment from the university if an outside group dictated the publication’s content.
“We wouldn’t allow that,” she says.