I’ve got to get something off my chest—some of the journalism students here at St. John’s really disappoint me.
Not all of them, of course. Even though I’m an English major, many of my peers from the Torch are either in the journalism department or have graduated from it, and I respect them as much as anyone.
But there are also a vast number of aspiring journalists here that for whatever reason refuse to get involved in the Torch. I know this because only five current editors and a handful of staff writers are actually journalism students. The rest of the Torch staff comes from other departments around the University.
The effects that this abysmal participation of St. John’s journalism students has had on the school’s student
newspaper have not been good, and over the past three years I have seen it firsthand.
As a news organization, we are significantly limited in what we can accomplish compared to some other college papers where the journalism departments are filled with students eager to work on their school’s paper. This is the case at many schools around the nation, such as at Syracuse University, where the impressive Daily Orange is sustained by an active journalism department.
Still every year, regardless of the hard work that goes on here at the Torch, the number of journalism students getting involved is shockingly low, and it leads to the paper being perennially understaffed.
It’s often a popular topic of discussion around the office as most editors and our staff advisor struggle to understand why so few St. John’s journalism students commit themselves to one of the biggest assets on campus for advancing their careers.
Some theorize that internship opportunities around the city preoccupy students and get in the way of joining the Torch. To me, this doesn’t add up. Internships rarely consume more than three days a week, and almost every editor I’ve ever worked with on the Torch, including myself, has managed to balance an internship and a position on the Torch simultaneously. To make matters worse most students aren’t able to intern until their junior year anyways.
I’ve even heard of multiple journalism professors that offer extra credit to students who report a few times during the semester for the Torch; still, nothing really ever comes of it.
It’s one of the great mysteries of our time.
But the Torch’s small staff is just an example of a larger issue at St. John’s. We all complain about things around campus, but at the end of the day it comes down to how willing we are to get involved and make something happen that counts. No matter how good or bad we think our resources are, or regardless of what we think of the school spirit level around St. John’s, we are the students who can make or break the organizations and image of this University.
We have a hand in our own student experience, for better or worse.
Many students here routinely shrug off campus events and organizations like the Torch, but they fail to recognize the difference their participation may actually have. They are the first to ridicule and belittle in place of taking action.
A college newspaper is always going to be defined by the willingness and participation level of the students at that school—this is why many institutions have student newspapers that can offer their communities daily publications; their journalism students care about the school paper.
It is my hope that things can be changed in years to come. At St. John’s, we need the journalism department to inspire students to get involved, to encourage them that the Torch is their paper to work for. Emphasis in journalism classes should be placed on getting involved and being proactive in helping to transform a paper that has already evolved tremendously in recent years.
Since its founding in 1922, the Torch has existed as an independent entity of the University. This is the reason that University censorship of the paper does not occur, and the reason why we have an outside advisor, not a faculty one. This independent nature allows for the Torch to report fairly and expose injustice, however, in order for this to function, students are needed.
There is no safety net, no guarantee that the paper will continue to operate unless students get involved to maintain the work that needs to be done.
To be fair, the responsibility also falls upon us at the Torch, as our work and interactions around campus must aim to reach out to students, not alienate them.
To all the journalism students here at St. John’s, I urge you to get involved in the work we do here at the Torch.
I’m calling on you to take interest in our paper, for the sake of your career, but also for the sake of the St. John’s community.