Flames of the Torch: Pandemic Pushes Digital

It’s been a long few months. When we left campus back in March, we thought we would be leaving behind our little office in O’Connor for just a few weeks. We didn’t know that our Feb. 12 issue would be our final print issue of the spring. Now, our Feb. 12 issue will be the Torch’s only physical print issue of 2020. You heard it here first – the Torch is going digital. 

Rather than meeting cohesively in our office, our team is now spread out from Massachusetts to Kentucky; but we’ve gotten the hang of virtual calls and what feels like millions of Slack messages back and forth. Some of us arrived back to a Queens campus that seemed almost foreign, with hand sanitizer pumps in the front of buildings and masked professors. Others of us are taking our classes from bed in our pajamas. 

Regardless of where we were this week, we reported. We talked to students who are spending more time than ever in their dorm rooms or at home because there is simply nowhere for them to be on campus. We spoke to Honors Program director Dr. Robert Forman, who told us that he “felt as though [he] had come home again,” when holding his first virtual event of the semester for students. We asked ourselves and our readers, “Are we really getting the education we paid for?” (Probably not.) 

But the pandemic has forced us to go digital with this content – for health and safety reasons, as well as financial reasons. It doesn’t make sense for us to push out a newspaper and put our health at risk while doing so (we produce it all ourselves, hunched over computers together in our office at the late hours of the night), and in turn spend thousands of dollars on printing. Not to mention we’re not entirely sure how long we’ll be on campus this semester. So instead, we’re looking to amp up our digital presence in a way that the Torch has never done before. 

We have a weekly newsletter that we distribute directly to the inboxes of hundreds of SJU community members. You can sign up for our mailing list here. Our Digital Editor, Priyanka Gera, goes through all of the stories we publish in a week to handpick the select few that end up in our newsletter. 

We’re getting creative and revamping our social media to create a cohesive look, so the news you see every day is a little easier on the eyes. We’re bringing the stories you need to hear directly to you. 

And there are many stories to be told  – the different challenges our community has faced in the wake of COVID-19, how everyone’s day-to-day lives have been altered, what is bringing people some comfort or hope. 

This year brought about a lot of tough decisions for most people. For the Torch, we had to tackle the decision of whether or not to print our paper, return to campus, take down photos or stories as well as plenty of other difficult choices behind the scenes. It was not always easy to arrive at a final decision as a group. As a news publication, though, we have a duty to seek truth and report it, whatever that may entail and wherever we do the work from. 

We are not saying goodbye to print forever, but we’re going to use this time to increase and improve our digital presence and adapt to the changing world of news media. The reason why the Torch has lasted nearly 98 years is because of change, and for that reason we welcome the challenge.