Letter from the editor:

Incoming editor looks to the future


Richard N. Clark IV, Editor in Chief 2019-20.

By Richard N. Clark IV, Editor in Chief 2019-20

Before talking about the future and my plans as the editor-in-chief at The Easterner for next year, I want to take a moment and thank EVERYONE, who has come before me.

Regardless of how big an impact you had on EWU and The Easterner, you have made a difference. You are a part of the reason why I am in this position and for that, I thank you.

In the past two years that I have worked at The Easterner, I am really proud of the efforts of our staff to not only create content for both print and online that is interesting and impactful but also to foster an inclusive learning environment for students who want professional experience with a media organization across multiple majors.

The only thing I am more thankful for is the opportunities to come.

The Power of Media

As a child, one of my favorite quotes was “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Its meaning?

Communication, particularly written language, is a more effective tool than direct violence.

At the time it might have been an easy way to avoid conflict for a scrawny 100 pound version of me. But now, 50 pounds later, at the age of 22, I still believe this to be true.

Take a second to think about your everyday life, and how each decision is influenced by our constitution and laws. How differently would you live your life without these? Now go deeper.

Think about the social agreements we have made as a society ranging from the value of clothes to the importance of manners. How differently would you live your life without these?

This is the power of language.

It has the ability to shape our understanding of the world around us.

So, if we are solely responsible for creating meaning to the world, then we are able to change that meaning too.

All that is needed is a shift in perspective.

Paradigm Shift

It’s not news to anybody that the journalism industry is struggling.

Whether it’s the transition from print to online, the consolidation of media companies, shrinking newsrooms or the debate over what is considered “fake news,” it has led to a decreased trust in the media as an industry.

This has created lots of pressure for traditional journalists to meet the demands of an ever-changing world.

I would argue however, that journalism is not declining due to its inability to adjust to the current state of the world, but rather, that it is stuck in a game of tug of war, as described by Dr. Mike Gasher.

A struggle over its definition and purpose as well as who gets to decide these questions, according to Gasher.

On one end is the news industry, who, as Gasher points out, continues to try to “appropriate journalism as a commercial enterprise serving markets rather than publics.”

The other end is a mix of citizens, alternative news organizations, reform advocates and critical journalists, all of whom want to restore the public service ethos of journalism, according to Gasher.

Simply put, journalism is different in the 21st century than the 20th. Not only because of the way it is distributed, but also because of the way it is consumed.

People nowadays have a higher capacity to understand complex issues and are demanding thought-provoking, inspiring storytelling that encompasses the topics being reported on.

It is this precise reason that I believe we, as a society, need to critically think and redefine what journalism means, what its purpose should be and who gets to ask these questions.

Why be a journalist?

When thinking of what it means to be American, few images come to mind more than the freedom of the press, save owning a firearm and fishing.

Historically, journalism has played a pivotal role in America’s democracy, been able to dispel common misconceptions, stereotypes and has been a strong advocate for social justice.

Nowadays, however, that significance is being questioned not only by the critics of news, but also dedicated journalists and reform advocates.

I believe journalism should be seen as an approach to knowledge, not just a job.

We are all journalists, knowledge seekers, truth speakers and myth breakers.

I believe the role of the media is to facilitate these conversations and separate fact from fiction.

Because, well, there are different versions of the truth.

Regardless of whether or not you plan on becoming a journalist in the traditional sense, the skills and work ethic that you gain from it will transfer to any professional job in the media industry.

Currently, EWU only has two full-time journalism professors, neither of which have experience in a digital-first newsroom in its truest form.

The journalism program at EWU is not prepared to accommodate the fast-pace changes of the media industry and this is discouraging potential journalists of the future.

Not to mention the fact that students’ career ambitions are often more diverse than the range of paths offered by the usual definition of “journalism.”

At a time when journalism and journalism education is at an all-time low, I want The Easterner to fill that educational void and be a leading example of what journalism can and should be.

Again, if you have a passion for business, marketing, design or writing, regardless of whether or not you plan on becoming a journalist in the traditional sense, you will be more prepared for the professional world after working with The Easterner.

Looking forward: A call to arms

For me, journalism is more than just reporting events, it is about asking the tough questions we all want answers to. It is about covering topics that are important to our audience. It is about being transparent. It is about being fair and honest to both sides of a particular issue or story.

It is about elevating the voices of those who have been historically oppressed. It is about continuing to seek new information and understandings of the world. It is about challenging the status-quo. It is about pushing boundaries and creating a new world.

Next year, I hope you all take advantage of the opportunity to be interviewed and have your opinion be heard or submit guest columns about issues that are important to you.

“Speaking to a group of journalism educators about what is wrong with journalism education is like encountering a pack of wolves in the woods and lecturing them about dinner etiquette,” Robert Picard said. “It will probably end badly.”

My hope is that this message does not fall on deaf ears but rather on a community that is willing to listen to criticism and eager to improve what it can.

Let’s write history EWU, together.