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phoenix

A dive into the archives

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

In light of recent events on campus, the editorial board figured it would be worth digging into past issues of the Phoenix printed decades ago to see what students back then had been writing about the college. Surprisingly, some of the headlines were just as fitting then as they are now. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, change has come to Swarthmore much slower than previously thought.

 

“Student Council endorses Black studies major, supports revival of ad hoc committee”

February 29, 1972

 

“Islamic cultural studies program lags”

April 24, 2003

 

“Student Council to explore course requirements”

March 25, 1975

 

“Freeze thaws for tuition; Bookstore sets price hike”

September 21, 1971

 

“Social Committee plans fall calendar; administration quashes concert ideas”

October 1, 1971

 

“SAGA food service proposes new design to reduce overcrowding”

September 25, 1981

 

“Bike thefts reported”

October 16, 1981

 

“The time to divest is now”

February 26, 1982

 

“Racial slur found carved into table”

March 20, 2003

 

“Students in dire need of space, events”

September 24, 1999

 

“Comm members, Student Council, activists charge inertia of student input”

February 20, 1973

Thank you to the Phoenix

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

I always crave mozzarella sticks from Essie’s at ten o’clock on Wednesday nights. I’m not sure why mozzarella sticks exactly — maybe it’s because they’re weighty, and I crave them in the hopes they’ll anchor me to the ground. Regardless, I know why I get strange cravings on Wednesday nights — since my first year at Swarthmore, I have developed a Pavlovian association between this particular time of every week and the Phoenix, the college’s oldest, (and I’ll say it, best) campus publication.

The way my time at the Phoenix is ending is remarkably similar to the way it began — in a completely unexpected way. When I came to Ride the Tide in the spring of 2014, I was finishing up my tenure as the founding editor-in-chief of my high school’s newspaper, the clunkily-named Rider Eye. I thought I was done with journalism, and then I walked by the Phoenix’s table at the infamous activities fair. I was actually frightened at how energetic the members of the Phoenix staff were and how aggressively they were recruiting prospective students. Mostly out of fear and partly out of obligation, I put my name down on the mailing list.

I went to their open house a few weeks later and met some editors who seemed way too cool and way too put together for me to ever associate with them (I’ve now learned as a current junior that it was probably all just for show, but whatever.) Fast forward another week, and I’m in the middle of writing my first ever news piece for the Phoenix.

It was awful.

Rather than firing me because it’s really hard to fire someone from a perpetually understaffed campus publication, I got a healthy dose of fairly brutal critiques and comments and suggestions. I slowly started to get the hang of things — and I really liked being a part of the organization that always seemed to be in the loop about the latest campus news. I started editing, I wrote some editorials, I started as managing editor, and all of a sudden I was the editor-in-chief of this strange, strange group of student journalists. And it’s been the most important experience of my time at Swarthmore.

The primary mode of intellectual engagement at Swarthmore is the language of theory. Swarthmore students love to theorize, analyze, and theorize. It’s what we’re good at. But campus journalism resists theory and theorizing — it’s just something you have to learn and do on the job. It feels real, viscerally real in a way that doesn’t really happen that often with Swarthmore academics. I love Thursday mornings (or, if we get out of publishing at 4am, afternoons) because of the moment I see the print edition of this week’s Phoenix for the first time. You get to say to yourself, “Look, I made something that isn’t a poststructuralist critique of Marx in a half-assed paper at three in the morning. I made solid journalism, instead!”

But campus journalism is also frustratingly, head-banging-ly difficult at times. You can only stay up for endless hours once or twice before the novelty wears off. Pieces fall through. The layout doesn’t quite work sometimes. We make quoting errors, but always try our best to resolve them. Long story short, this is student journalism, we’re students before we’re journalists and mistakes are going to happen. Over my career as a campus journalist, I’ve made more than my fair share. Just ask a Bryn Mawr College student or alum.

Most importantly though, the Phoenix wouldn’t exist without the people who work to make this publication happen every week. During the meetings and long Wednesday nights, there’s never a dull moment. There have been too many inside jokes, too many laughs, too many surprises, too many close calls, and too many moments of triumph to include in the text of an editorial.

Just as my entrance into the Phoenix Pham was unexpected, my exit is far from how I would have imagined it. I sustained a concussion over winter break and I’ve had to take a major step back this past semester from many of my commitments, including the Phoenix. There were more projects I wanted to pursue, stories I wanted to write, and more time I could have spent with the people that I care about so much. Despite all that, I stumbled my way to the end of the semester, and you’re now reading the last issue of the Phoenix for the semester and I wrote this final editorial. So I wanted to thank you, Swarthmore community, for giving us and for giving me a purpose.

We’re not a perfect organization and we’re always trying to be better. And my parting request to all of you reading this is to help us on that pursuit. If you’re feeling inspired, write an op-ed. If a Phoenix staff member reaches out to you to learn more about a story, give them a chance — and think of it as an opportunity to make a new friend. Maybe you have a story to tell one of us! Stories bring us together in ways that other forms of media can’t — and they’re my favorite one, by far.

To quote Kehlani, “All I’m trying to say is I thank you.”

It’s been real.

-Bobby Zipp ’18, EIC

Updates to Quoting Policy

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Coming off of election years, national news publications, such as the New York Times, cite issues with campaign offices having tight lips and hesitant hands. The offices revise, redact, and reform quotes to fit a narrative. Journalists have trouble developing stories because of this policy called quote revision, which enables the places and people they report on to manage what they say officially. Stories and reporting tactics are hampered because the honest quotes — the less-than-polished, off-the-cuff words of people — are refined by bureaucracy and management.

Now, the problems for college journalists are not of the same sensitivity or degree as those of national news organizations; they are, however, persistent and ubiquitous on our campuses. At Swarthmore, as a small college community, not only does everyone know each other, but everyone knows what others say. This fact can often cause friction for college papers. Sources understandably want to ensure their images are not marred in the publication of a controversial piece or in the leak of sensitive information. However, these intentions conflict with journalism’s goals of telling honest, well-rounded, and meaningful stories.

Previously, the Phoenix has maintained a de-facto quoting policy through which sources could retract quotes that were once on the record. This policy was meant to serve the campus community. In recent years, however, the policy has had the unintended consequence of limiting writers’ ability to cover stories earnestly and the Phoenix’s ability to report campus events accurately.

As a result, the Phoenix has decided to change its quoting policy, so the campus benefits from better reporting while it maintains access to quotes. The new policy states that sources who had previously provided quotes on the record are expected to be treated as on the record. Retracted quotes will be considered in only extreme cases. Less frank quotes reduce stories’ ability to convey the truth. In the event of an extenuating circumstance, a source may withhold their quotes pending a meeting with Phoenix staff. This is actually not a new policy at the Phoenix; rather, it is the reiteration of our current policy. Certain editors have ventured away from this policy in the name of transparency and dialogue, but these decisions have caused more problems than solutions, and thus we feel compelled to reiterate our original policy. Furthermore, although we will not allow sources to retract or revise their quotes, sources may request for their quotes to be sent to them before publication.

It is also important to clarify the distinctions between information that is considerd “on the record” and “off”. On the record information is information that can be quoted or used toward a piece’s final published form and is attributed to the source. This information is usually obtained over in-person interviews, phone calls, and email correspondence. Off the record information cannot be reported in the final published piece. However, off the record information can be used to motivate further research and find new sources who can provide the same or different information on the record. Once a Phoenix reporter identifies themselves as a reporter to a potential source, all correspondence thereafter is assumed to be on the record unless otherwise specified. Also, a source may be referred to as an anonymous source, pending a meeting with Phoenix staff.

For reference, this change comes after many other established institutions have made similar policy changes or comments. The New York Times, in addition to other college publications like the Harvard Crimson, holds similar quoting policies in order to avoid these skewed and sterile quotes.

The Phoenix recognizes that we are not the New York Times, and the situations both papers find themselves in are very different. Our change is not because of a concern with “getting the scoop” or catching people in a bad light. Although we do want to hold the college and community accountable, this reasoning is not the root of this policy change. Instead, quote revision prevents dialogue and the exchange of ideas from taking place. Therefore, restating and reaffirming our practices and policies as they were intended to be followed ensures that we are a place of discourse where ideas are offered up for discussion and comparison.

Phoenix forum yields feedback

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You came. You saw. You roasted.

Sort of.

The Phoenix held a forum in Shane Lounge yesterday evening in response to conversations that the editorial board had amongst itself and with members of the wider college community. As we explained in our previous editorial, the Phoenix is making a conscious effort to improve across a number of different areas, including making our paper become and feel like a more inclusive space for all the different voices and experiences that are equally valuable on campus.  We cannot do that without responses and feedback from the campus community.

The aim for the forum was to move our work forward, providing a space for dialogue and discourse to flow freely, and to serve as a valuable learning opportunity for our editorial board. We hoped to understand our weaknesses and our strengths as a publication so that moving forward, we can better serve you, our readership. Though we were only able to connect with a small part of our readership, we came away with substantive recommendations and suggestions that we feel will make our paper a better, more inclusive organization in the coming semesters.

To begin, we want to have an increased number of authentic conversations with the campus community in the future. The limited amount of time we had for this forum did not allow us to receive even close to enough feedback in order for us to improve in the way that we would like to. We envision more regular open meetings and discussions, where any member of the campus community can come and engage with our editors and writers. We feel that this will ensure continued feedback and allow conversations to occur as we face new challenges and grapple with new obstacles in the coming weeks. Just as an institution changes over time, we recognize at the Phoenix that the feedback we need to receive and the conversations we need to be having may change as we progress. In addition, in doing so, we can guarantee that our content will be not only sourced from the minds in our office, but also from the larger Swarthmore community, allowing the gaps our Phoenix staff are unable to fill to be complemented by the ideas and opinions of the community at large. We also hope to engage with more students and recruit a more comprehensive staff of writers with diverse life experiences through this approach, which will further our mission of representing as many perspectives and stories as possible.

As we have previously mentioned, we would like to affirm that we want to work to feature more members of the student body in our paper who have not previously received coverage, giving our readers an opportunity to learn from various aspects of the campus community that may not have taken precedence in the past. In order for us to do so, we ask that you share your voices and your stories with us. You have no obligation to share your perspectives or experiences with us, but we are inviting you to do so, because an organization that claims to represent a community can never hope to succeed at that task without the participation of members of that community.

As we have done for every issue in the past, we will continue publishing all of our articles online on our website (swarthmorephoenix.com). We plan to begin sending emails out on a weekly basis with links to the articles for that week, allowing greater access to our content and providing an online forum for our readers to engage with authors and one another through our comment sections. We also hope to begin distributing our paper in residence halls in the coming weeks, ensuring that no reader has to go too far in order to stay in tune with campus news. We want to establish distribution in some other frequented locations, such as Hobbs and other businesses in Swarthmore.

We also received some feedback that it appears that we lack a clear mission statement or guiding principle that we can adhere to, a standard that we can use to ensure that each of our pieces is uniform in quality and purpose. As an editorial board we plan to convene and establish such a focus for our publication to ensure future consistency.

In addition, we would like to continue to host more outward-facing events beyond just a simple forum. We would like to invite the campus community to get to know us as students and as people as well, because before we are all journalists, we are students, with our own unique perspectives, interests, and stories to share. We anticipate hosting more social and informal events where we can get to know members of the campus community better. We appreciate all those in the community who have already begun working together with us as we move forward as an institution. Our work to become a better, more inclusive paper will continue until we are certain that we are an organization that works to serve all members of the college, fairly, inclusively, and equitably.

Phoenix moves to “Latinx”

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“Hey, do we correct for ‘Latinx’?” was a question that baffled the copy editors at the Phoenix some weeks ago. The Associated Press handbook, always consulted and ready at hand, had none of its usual wisdom to offer on this particular occasion. In light of the lack of standardization, it seemed that the decision lay in the hands of the copy editors. We at the Phoenix have thus decided to accept and adopt the use of “Latinx” in our publication. On a practical level, this means that the traditional “Latino” and “Latina” will henceforth be used when grammatical agreement is appropriate, and “Latinx” will be used as a gender-neutral term on all other occasions.

Many online publications have already adopted the use of the term, although seemingly not in a standardized fashion. We at the Phoenix hope that publishing this editorial will make clear that the change is intentional and deliberate, and that we specifically sanction the use of the form.

Our readers may be aware that we have previously published pieces arguing for or against the appropriateness and inclusiveness of the term. In our issue from Nov. 19, 2015, Gilbert Guerra and Gilbert Orbea’s “The argument against the use of the term ‘Latinx’” inaugurated the discussion. A response by Jesus Hernández and Brandon Torres was published in the subsequent issue, on Dec. 3, 2015. Adopting the term means we are taking sides in this debate. We at the Phoenix believe that “Latinx” is a term that does important work towards disarticulating the inherent gender binary present in the Spanish language. We are aware that masculine grammatical forms are considered inclusive of feminine forms. Still, we believe this is not enough. We understand the concerns with “linguistic imperialism” that Guerra and Orbea have brought up, but, as they point out themselves, the term is used mostly within the United States. Instead of interpreting this as a case of “how English speakers can’t seem to stop imposing their social norms on other cultures,” as Guerra and Orbea argue, we would like to acknowledge, as Hernández and Torres already have, that Latinx people are indeed an important part of this country and are thus implicated in shaping its discursive culture. English speakers are not part of a separate culture from that of Latinxs—in fact, as Hernández and Torres point out, the term originated with Latinx students, who in many cases are native speakers of English.

While the debate on the term is still ongoing in Latinx communities, we at the Phoenix have decided to adopt it to honour its inclusive intent. We may not be the Real Academia Española de la Lengua—that ivory bastion of standardization—but sometimes we, too, make our own rules.

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