Since news leaked that the Spectator might shift to a weekly edition in order to shift its priorities online, I’ve gone through a whirlwind of emotions: anger, confusion, nostalgia, hope. Not quite Kübler-Ross, but close. Now, on the last night of the daily print edition (tearing up, here), part of me wishes I were there to celebrate. But another part of me can’t shake the questions and concerns I have about this very dramatic shift, questions and concerns that have yet, to my knowledge, been addressed in a public forum.
First: What does the new business model look like? How does the business team plan to increase revenue? Will there be enough work to sustain the current head count?
Second: How will increasing the number of work-study openings help build a diverse staff? What qualifies as “diverse” at Spectator? If the concern is that it is next to impossible to be a full-time student, full-time Spec employee, and do work study (which, having been all of the above, I can attest to), why not reach out to the undergraduate programs and ask them to grant class credits for Spec employees?
Third: What kind of analysis has been run to conclude that Spectator readers prefer an online medium? Spec has always prided itself on being a community newspaper. What about the Morningside Heights residents who don’t have daily access to the Internet?
Fourth: What will happen to the design department, which is largely dedicated to the print edition? What will happen to the 13 incredibly talented design students and editors now?
But what matters is not the medium through which Spec delivers its content, but that the quality of the journalism and the experience working at a full-time, student-run newspaper stick to the high standards we Speccies have always prided ourselves on.
When the news first broke, I immediately submitted an op-ed listing the concerns above, along with some others which have since been publicly addressed. I did not receive a response for two days, and, when I did, it came from the editor in chief, Abby Abrams. She wanted to talk with me before she “let you [me] work with our [the] opinion editors.” The final decision was announced the next day, before I could reply. I rewrote and re-submitted my original op-ed to reflect the announcement. Only then did I hear directly from one of the editorial page editors, Dan Garisto, who explained that he did not respond to me before because he did not have the authority to discuss the decision and “did not feel comfortable publishing an op-ed that rested on the presumption the final decision would be made/had been made.”
I know full well running a newspaper can be difficult and tricky, and I am not pointing fingers. I am telling you this story because it gives me great pause that this decision could very well compromise the journalistic standards and experiences afforded to students involved at Spectator in any capacity. I felt, as a writer, that I was being ignored and possibly censored. I was taught, as an editor, that it’s the responsibility of an editorial page editor to publish opinions he or she disagrees with as much as anything else. I was also taught that the decision to publish an op-ed should not be influenced by information that the writer cannot have or the views of the editor making that decision. This is a conversation that Spectator’s entire readership is entitled (and has been invited by the editors) to participate in. (When I was editorial page editor, I was also the sex columnist. On the last night of the spring semester, we received a submission eviscerating my writing. We did not, at the time, have room to publish the op-ed. My editor in chief and I worked with the design team until we made the space to publish it. We wanted writers to be heard when they wanted to be heard, without imposing our personal opinions or feelings on them.)
Spectator changed my life. It was the most valuable, formative experience I had in college, and it taught me far more than any class ever did. I got to manage an organization alongside extremely talented people, with whom I often disagreed, and oversee 30 staff members at once. Spec gives students a set of life skills you cannot get anywhere else—a set that has served me professionally and personally ever since.
I love Spec with all my heart, and even in my poorest days, I have found ways to donate and contribute to this paper I am so lucky to have been, and continue to be, a part of. I am honored to voice my opinions in our final print edition (and on the same day of the week my column ran). The idea that moving to a weekly edition to increase our online presence could compromise future Speccies’ opportunities in any fashion breaks my heart. So, I ask you, dear editors, as you proceed with these new plans, that you consider that most of all.
Miriam Datskovsky, BC ’07, is a former editorial page editor for Spectator’s 130th managing board. She has worked for New York magazine and The Daily Beast.
To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.