Opinion | Op-eds

Concern for future direction of Spectator

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 opinion@columbiaspectator.com.


Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Spec Alumna posted on

I find this op-ed to be incredibly smug, and its writer to be incredibly self important. As a fellow Spectator alumna, I understand the feeling of anxiousness about what this change could mean for Spectator. But if you really care about the organization and the people that are a part of it, and if you really want to make sure the current editors make this monumental change a success, you would reach out to them and offer support. You'd ask them to chat—I've met many of the current MB, and they are highly intelligent and willing to talk. You'd explain your concerns, and offer advice. And then you'd step back, and let them work. I'm sure they'll make mistakes. But I'm also sure they'll do great things. And the chances of them doing great things will only increase if the people who care about Spectator offer their support, even if it's just a cautiously encouraging email.

One thing that is certain not to help is alumni seeking public attention by writing op-eds to display their self worth and the greatness of days gone by in comparison to what they perceive to be the current situation. It's not productive. I, too, have significant reservations about the change Spectator is undergoing. But for better or for worse, Spectator is in the hands of the current students. Trust them and let them work.

Current Student posted on

This is totally anti-intellectual. The point of the article was to observe that Spec has stifled internal/external criticism, which is institutionally unhealthy.

Columbia is not a school where we simply have faith in people and hope they do the right thing. It's a place where we critically challenge one another in public with the idea that we can reach a higher understanding as a result.

So, until you sign your name to "don't be critical but have blind faith," I'll assume you are a trolling Dartmouth student.

Anonymous posted on

I see absolutely nowhere in the article any evidence of the author's viewpoints having been stifled, however she may feel. She got a timely response from the EIC (two days in the midst of a ground-shaking announcement?! I have waited weeks to hear back from professors and student govt. leaders on average) and a kind offer from Abby to talk in person in order to clear up questions--that's a demonstration of a willingness to show transparency, not silencing. Then the EPE expressed the opinion that it would be more germane to wait until the digitization move was confirmed, which I understand could be frustrating for someone who wanted to jump into the debate as quickly as possible, but nevertheless very far from censoring any kind of opinion; it's not like the author's opinions would have actually made a difference or not, since she is merely commentating on the matter and not throwing in a vote or any kind. The decision was left up to the Spec Trustees and it IS pretty arrogant for the author to assume on her part that they nor the CB considered these basic questions thoroughly or would have changed their minds if she had published this sentimental fluff of an op-ed earlier. Please.

Seriously?? posted on

"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.”

This right here is where you should have checked your self-importance and stopped writing.

Anonymous posted on

"why not reach out to the undergraduate programs and ask them to grant class credits for Spec employees?"

Oh, screw that. Like we need to further perpetrate inequality at Barnard/Columbia by asking students to substitute parts of their very expensive education for slaving away at a student newspaper instead. Spec teaches invaluable skills, but that's not what you go to college for. It is not the same as sitting in a classroom and allowing experts and the finest minds in the academic world imparting their wisdom and knowledge to you; it constitutes an entirely different, irreplaceable process of building and honing critical thinking skills—not to mention that it's already far from a breeze to fulfill major/concentration/core requirements for students currently. As for the ridiculous "what is diversity?" prompt, I can tell you right now that whatever it is, the Spectator staff and MB aren't it.