Criticism and a Christian institution: the unique opportunity for growth

This final editorial is a bit unconventional, but as I start counting down the days before I graduate and hand off the title and responsibilities of my job to someone else, I wanted to take the time to reflect on two topics that have been raised at various points during the last four years: criticism and the role of a student publication at a private institution. The format has changed, but the goal of The Whitworthian has remained relatively the same over the course of its existence: to seek out information and tell the truth. It is inevitable that a student publication receives flak over what is published; ultimately it is why the editor-in-chief position exists — to act as a sounding board for criticism from our audience. As a general rule of thumb, a paper that does not create conversation is a paper that is selling itself short and ultimately not doing its job. Yes, we have received criticism this year, but we have also facilitated conversation through our content, and for that, I am grateful. At no point has our job been to please everyone on this campus, and at no point was that our goal this year. Instead, we did what we knew how to do best: tell the stories of those in this community, even if those stories and those beliefs went against the majority.

Contrary to popular belief, a student publication is not necessarily the soap box of student government or the school it is associated with, even if some would wish that to be true. With that said, this idea is dependent largely on how much freedom student publications are given by upper administration and the Board of Trustees.

I recently had a conversation with another editor at a small private college in Illinois. Similar in many ways to Whitworth, the structure of this particular paper reflected an administration and Board that was relatively leery of placing the power in the hands of a student group. The Board of Trustees and the President’s Cabinet played a significant role in anything from deciding what is published to how the editor-in-chief is selected. Very little was not monitored by upper administration. Only in the last several months did the paper get permission to have a website where they were allowed to post stories dubbed the best of the week. When I started talking about the climate here at Whitworth, she was surprised to hear that I didn’t share the same outside pressures, nor did I have to rely on a voluntary team of staff writers with very little incentive to treat their role as a job.

This conversation reminded me that Whitworth is a unique place. Although the paper receives criticism, I am grateful that we are largely supported by faculty, staff and administration who are free to voice their concerns about what we publish, but leave editorial discretion up to us.

It is a foreign concept to many private institutions in this country, but one that has made me proud to call myself a Whitworth student and honored to be a part of this publication. This freedom has allowed us to strive for a level of success and professionalism that is not always found at other collegiate publications. Yes, we make mistakes — those are inevitable, but above all else we are given the opportunity to learn from those mistakes and turn it into an opportunity for growth.

Honor God, follow Christ, serve humanity: the mantra I have heard repeated countless times by others. I can say that my time over the last four years spent working in various roles on this publication, from copy editor to editor-in-chief, have prepared me to do just that. Story by Jessica Valencia Editor-in-chief

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