jueves, 1 de marzo de 2007

The Voice: the little student paper that could (if anyone gave a crap)

In the city of Rexburg, located in eastern Idaho, is the small university Brigham Young University – Idaho. The town of Rexburg has a population of about 22,000 to give you an idea of the size of community we are talking about. At BYU-I, like most university campuses, there exists a campus newspaper ran by the faculty and students majoring in journalism called The Scroll. The Scroll consists of articles written by students for a grade; not for writing what they want to write about. As you would imagine with any university endorsed paper, The Scroll has a lot of red tape to go through if you want to print anything that could be considered questionable. And for this reason, The Scroll lacks passion and creativity. Ask any student and he will tell you that the few times he has actually picked up The Scroll, he found it pretty boring and predictable, with weak student opinions, and watered down journalism.
This sorry state of The Scroll, along with the lack of any other student paper that actually represented the students, was the inspiration of The Voice: Rexburg’s Independent Student Newspaper. For all the complaining that the scroll generates you would think an alternate paper created by students would attract a lot of attention and you would think many students would immediately grab hold of the idea and take advantage of all the opportunities that an independent paper offers that cant be offered through a faculty ran paper. Opportunities such as: a source to freely question the status quo, announce a party that they are throwing that weekend, network with other people with their interests, and learn about local bands and their shows in the area. But the sad truth is, even after 5 months and 5 issues, still no one gives a crap about The Voice.
One could say that it is still a new paper and these things take time to snowball, but how long should it really take? Getting feedback and finding people who are willing to participate with articles and art work has been like pulling teeth. How come students don’t care about this new medium to express how they feel, read inside Rexburg joke humor, or network with other students? First we’ll look at why The Voice is obviously a better paper for students than the faculty ran alternative, The Scroll, and then we’ll look at some possible reasons for why The Voice is still staggering to stay alive.
The Voice offers many benefits that the faculty ran university paper can’t due to its heavy censorship and red tape. First of all, The Voice is independent meaning we can print what ever we want. Everything that a student has ever wanted to say can now be said, printed, and distributed in 5,000 copies. There are no staff writers meaning the entire student body is encouraged and invited to participate with their opinions, articles, and art work. The long standing slogan of The Voice has always been: “Do you think the articles in The Voice suck? Then write some that don’t suck, this is YOUR paper.” There has always been the complaint by students that there is nothing to do in the small town of Rexburg which was the inspiration for the calendar section where anyone who is throwing a party, event, or activity could spread the word. There is also the section of the paper called The Cracked Voice which is a section dedicated to making fun of the news and making you laugh. There is the free classified section where anyone could post their stuff to sell for free. But even with all of these advantages, the paper still struggles for people to get involved. When the idea of the paper was conceived, it was thought that finding people to write for it would be the least difficult part, since there are many journalist type students and others who are opinionated. But on the contrary, struggling to find writers, artists, photographers and feedback has been the bane of The Voice from day one. What happened to everyone? Doesn’t anyone care anymore about being involved with the local scene?
Reason one for kids not caring about the paper: Kids are already so saturated with the different forms of entertainment, be it TV, video games, and the internet, that the simple act of picking up an independent paper delivered to your door is not worth the time and energy. In an era when digital products and websites are commodities, you would think that there would be a premium on the experience of having a real paper delivered to your door. But it doesn’t look like it. Why try to get involved with the current state of things by picking up the paper on your door step when you got reruns of Friends on TV to watch? It is in fact a sad state of affairs when the average college student spends 3-5 hours watching TV a day during the time in his life when he should be learning, exploring, and being more active than ever. But instead most students and preparing themselves to be mediocre employees that fit into the system.
Reason two: The paper is somewhat of a nitch paper which lowers the amount of people who would be interested in it. With a student body of only 13,000 students it is hard to find a group large enough to support it. This is why in bigger cities with thousands of residents, you can find not only one independent paper but a different one for every type of sub-genre. If you go to any other large university you don’t have to look very hard to find the underground paper of the area, but in small town Rexburg, there just isn’t a big enough nitch audience for it. To be the type of cool underground type of paper that The Voice wants to be requires some independent thinking that not all students would be into. Chris Anderson writes in his book, The Long Tail, “The more compromises made to make something appeal to everyone, the less it will appeal perfectly to anyone.” The Voice doesn’t compromise or water down its articles so that they will appeal to everyone, so therefore; the crowd it does attract needs to be big enough to support it. This crowd just might not be big enough.
Reason three: For one reason or another, there are just some kids that would not be interested in an independent student run paper. It was thought that these indifferent students would not outweigh those that would like to get involved, but it seems to be the contrary. There isn’t enough DIY spirit in this town. Too many kids have been raised in sheltered homes and are taught to fit in instead of speaking out. Too many kids are just apathetic to life. Also I think many kids are just altogether unfamiliar with underground papers and zines to begin with. While passing out the paper to apartment complexes many students give back a blank stare when you tell them that a new independent paper has been made for them, as if it were an alien idea that they had never considered. Many students show their lack of involvement with anything at all when they fail to see the difference between The Voice and The Scroll, asking questions like, “Isn’t there already a student paper at the school?” They obviously have never thought outside the box long enough to recognize that there may be more to say than what the uptight school paper has to say.
So will The Voice live on to reach its first anniversary this coming November? With an increased budget to advertise the paper, time for it to snowball and constantly searching for new ways to reach students, there is hope. But weather or not the students are on board we will yet see.

2 comentarios:

Marc Jorgensen dijo...

Wow, now I feel even worse for having 5 articles rejected by a small town, struggling broke student newspaper

Emily dijo...

Keep your chin up, Zach. Just keep doing what you believe in because YOU believe in it, not because you think others should believe in it. Passion and enthusiasm are strong motivators, much stronger than coercion. Love the blog.