In the past, War News Radio (WNR), Swarthmore’s award-winning student-run news group, traditionally produced 30-minute weekly broadcasts that were carried on numerous radio stations worldwide. Starting this semester, WNR is not only dropping their broadcasts for a more comprehensive, multimedia online platform, but it is also expanding the topics being covered.
According to staff member Collin Smith ’14, WNR was originally partially funded by the president’s office. “When President Rebecca Chopp came in, she didn’t really understand why the president’s funding was going to this one student group every year, which makes sense because the fund is for temporary groups, and our group was clearly not one anymore,” Smith said.
At that point in time, the radio show secured two more years worth of funding. Now, with only one semester’s worth of money left, the group decided it was time for a change. Because the Lang Center has funded WNR in the past as well, creating a more sustainable proposal could also help renew funding for the group, according to Amy DiPierro ’15, a contributing member of WNR.
“We decided that it was better to totally rethink things than try to expand within the constraints that we already had,” DiPierro said.
According to DiPierro, the changes were also implemented mid-year for various reasons. “We know each other and we have a good idea of who will be a major contributor. Plus I think that the start of a new semester renews the chance to recruit again and get people excited and interested in joining,” she said.
This new online platform consists of two different elements, according to Smith. One is media aggregation – that is, taking a topic and searching the web on a regular basis, and then compiling all of the important and relevant information into one spot within the site. The second is individual productions. “We’ll interview people, create original content, just like before, but instead of patching it into a half-hour radio show every week, we’ll put it on the website as an article, possibly with audio and video supplements. It will be multimedia,” Smith said.
Evolving for the sake of remaining a relevant and original source of news was also an important aspect of the decision to switch to an online platform for WNR. “In 2005, War News Radio represented one of the most innovative models in independent journalism, but with innovation becoming the standard across the media industry in recent years, we need to discover new strategies to distinguish ourselves,” Professor and WNR mentor, Jim MacMillan, said.
WNR also plans to shift away from their current focus on events in the Middle East, specifically Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, in order to accommodate the original purpose of the show, which was to cover events lacking proper coverage by the mainstream media.
“When WNR started, there was a lot of enthusiasm on campus about reporting on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” DiPierro said. “Over time, that enthusiasm somewhat understandably waned and while we still want to report on conflict when that’s relevant, we want to make sure that we are also covering other topics that are equally under-covered and equally important. Essentially, we are focusing on under-covered news through a social lens,” DiPierro said.
MacMillan, like the other WNR contributors, wishes to make the group’s reporting more accessible to new audiences. “I hope to develop a more vibrant journalism community at Swarthmore, empowering more students to bring new knowledge on the issues that concern them to a wider spectrum of audiences,” he said.
Although the site won’t be running for three or more weeks, War News Radio plans to undertake their new venture by tackling the issues surrounding income inequality and will consequently also be covering events like Occupy Wall Street.