Journalism 101: What We Write About When We Write About Race

This post does not reflect the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXVII 

The goal of this post is to give some general understanding and make more transparent the decision-making process of the Commentary Editors (or at least, myself specifically) in determining what we consider to be appropriate to run. Up until this fall, there was no protocol for such decisions, and they were simply left up to the discretion of relevant members of the editorial board. Over the summer, however, Ryan Brigden (Managing Editor CXXXVII) and I began work on a set of Commentary Policies (still in their nascent, unofficial state) that would define exactly what elements could disqualify an article from publication.

The first and most obvious of these policies was that Commentary (and the entire paper, for that matter), would not publish hate speech. This has long been a rule of The Phillipian, but I had not found it actually written anywhere during my tenure as Editor, and so Ryan and I codified it as a tangible policy.

The American Bar Association defines hate speech as that which “offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.” Our policy (again, still unofficial) is similar, though slightly more explicit and specific to The Phillipian.

But the problem is, I don’t think this is enough. I don’t think simply preventing hate speech protects our community to the extent that it should. Because language can be a tool of violence, and as an Editor, it is my responsibility to protect my community from such violence (if you haven’t, read Janine Ko’s article on how language can be dangerous)

Before I define more specifically these types of articles that, while not containing hate speech, are still particularly harmful, I would like to address one question that I am often asked: isn’t it better to publish articles with hurtful opinions so that those ideas are in the public sphere and can therefore be addressed directly?

Actually, no, it isn’t.

It’s one thing for hurtful opinions to be said in private conversation, so that yes these opinions can be addressed, but more importantly, because freedom of speech and opinion is the quintessential American right, and the idea of silencing people in their own homes is a terrifyingly literal interpretation of Big Brother. What people do in private is entirely up to them, and I do not intend to, and have no wish to infringe upon that right.

That being said, I don’t think hurtful opinions should have a public platform, be it social media, the Chapel lectern, or the Commentary Section. Because this suggests they have a public credence. This suggests they are valid ideas that should be listened to and taken seriously; the fact of the matter is, however, not all opinions are ideas are valid, and not all opinions should be taken seriously.

So what are these types of opinions that are “hurtful” but that aren’t hate speech? A lot of the time, what separates actual, defined hate speech from a hurtful opinion is the presence of good intentions, “solid evidence,” or both.

The best way to discuss these types of opinions is through examples of hypothetical articles, so I will give two. The first (“article one”) is an article written by an African-American student, arguing against affirmative action on the basis that most African-Americans simply do not have the educational background to attend an institution of higher learning. The second (“article two”) is an article written by a heterosexual student, arguing in favor of gay conversion therapy to combat high suicide rates among LGBTQ youth.

The first question I would ask, when reading one of these articles is, is it from the standpoint of an individual (or group) that has been historically and/or institutionally marginalized and/or oppressed with regards to some aspect of its identity (race, gender, class, ability, etc…), or a group that has historically and/or institutionally derived privilege with regards to the aforementioned aspect of identity?

This question is actually quite easy to answer. Looking at article one we can see that it is from an African-American student, arguing against something (affirmative action) that has historically benefited racial minorities, and in particular African-American students. With respect specifically to authorial perspective, there is little to no chance that this article could be perceived as offensive or harmful.

Article two, on the other hand, is a different story. Its author is a heterosexual student, arguing in favor of something (gay conversion therapy) that has repeatedly been used to oppress members of LGBTQ minority groups. This fact doesn’t immediately disqualify this article from publication (again, preventing people from publishing certain opinions solely on the basis of their identity would be censorship), but it raises a red flag.

The second question I would ask is, does this article associate a negative opinion or occurrence with an aspect of an individual’s (or group’s) identity that has historically resulted in the marginalization or oppression of that individual (or group), e.g. femininity, black skin, homosexuality, etc…? (Bear in mind that an article directly claiming some aspect of identity is “bad” – or otherwise negative – is simply hate speech.) 

This question is more difficult to answer. Let’s look at article one. In the context of Western society, I think most of us would agree that lack of education background (and resulting inability to attend an institution of higher learning) is a negative quality. Furthermore, the article associates an aspect of a group’s identity (African-Americanism) with said lack of education. This question is answered in the affirmative, which, again, doesn’t necessarily disqualify it from publication, but is potentially concerning.

We find article two answering this question similarly in the affirmative. The implication of the author’s solution is that if we rid individuals of their LGBTQ-ness (via gay conversion therapy), they will be less likely to commit suicide. The author is therefore associating a negative occurrence (suicide) with a facet of a group’s identity (belonging to an LGBTQ minority). This raises another red flag.

The third and final question I would ask myself is, does the article consider historical context?

This is not something that can be known simply from analyzing an article’s thesis or an understanding of the author’s (or authors’) background(s). In other words, historical context, if considered, falls under the classification of “evidence,” i.e. support for the thesis, and will therefore be found in the meat of the article. An article that doesn’t consider historical context also raises a red flag.

So let’s say article two does not consider historical context, and therefore has been classified as potentially offensive or harmful by to all three of the above questions. It is still not disqualified from publication. It is impossible to make any final decisions regarding the article without first considering the solution it proposes to the problem discussed.

The solution proposed by article two is gay conversion therapy – one that has historically been used to marginalize and oppress members of the LGBTQ community, and is therefore generally not considered to be in line with the practices of the LGBTQ community. The solution is inappropriate and the article cannot run.

Now let’s say, for the sake of argument, that article two’s solution was proposed healthcare legislation offering free psychiatric consultations to at-risk LGTBQ youth (let’s specify that these doctors would be presumably not be practitioners of gay-conversion therapy). Could this article run, even though it has it has been classified as harmful, according to the three above questions? Yes, because its solution (free psychiatric consultations) is a relatively unbiased one. Furthermore, psychiatric treatment (excluding the practice of gay conversion therapy) has not been used, historically, to oppress or marginalize members of LGBTQ minorities.

It’s pretty easy to see that the original version of article two is coming from good intentions. The author wants to combat high suicide rates among LGBTQ youth, an admirable goal and one that any member of the LGBTQ community would respect. Nevertheless, intention doesn’t matter, particularly in the context of Commentary. An article that is going to cause harm will do so regardless of whether or not the author intended it to.

To reiterate, these are just the questions I ask myself when I edit Commentary. My fellow editors, the copy editors, and members of Upper Management read through articles as well, and of course can overrule me if they disagree, feel that I am being unfair, or feel that the section leans too much towards any one standpoint. Furthermore, this article belies the entire process of working with writers that is so central to Commentary in ensuring that all voices are heard, that all writers are comfortable with the product that is article under their name, and that all writers understand why an article might or might not run.

And I will be the first to admit, that when it comes to opinion, there is no completely unbiased way to evaluate an article. If being a Commentary Editor has taught me anything, it is that nothing is objective, and therefore that truth and morality are inherently relative. Any structure I could impose (even my three questions) is inherently flawed. There is absolutely no definitive way to say what is correct (factually or morally).

I’m trying to outline some of what goes through my head when I look at the Commentary Google Drive folder for the week ahead. But in reality, it’s impossible to do so – none of this is a formal, codified process, and it likely won’t ever be. It’s just editing. It’s what we do.

– Lily Grossbard, Commentary Editor CXXXVII

AP Calc. Sort of…

We’re nearing the middle of May, and, as a Commentary Editor, it’s my job to read through all the sentimental pieces, the good-byes, and the thank-yous and get them sorted out and in order for the June Commencement Issue. Perhaps this is why I’ve been in a bit of a reflective mood lately.

Upper Spring is probably the worst time to think about what Andover means to me, because right now it means college and standardized testing stress, a 310 paper hanging over my head, and more than a few failing test grades piling up on my transcript. In light of the recent discussion about race, however, I feel an urgent need to put aside my AP Calc book at 1 AM and write this more reflective blog post.

If there is one thing that I have learned at Andover, the one thing that I will definitively remember, it is that identity – as it is formed by race, class, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality – matters.

I come from a privileged background, yet at Andover, I find myself among privilege to an extent that I had never experienced before – the manicured lawns, brick buildings, dining-hall-with-stir-fry-counter – I doubt you need me to point it out.

It’s easy for me, with parentally-funded credit card in hand, to say that I support equality of all classes, races, and genders. Growing up in a liberal household, this was something that I was taught to say from an early age. But until I came to Andover, it was an empty saying. The idea of equality just didn’t apply to me, because it didn’t need to; I am fortunate enough to always be in the position of being “more equal than others,” so to speak.

Looking back on my younger self two years later, however, I feel very differently – when I demand equality, for myself as a woman, or for my friends as black and Latino or LGBTQ students – I actually mean it. And the reason I mean it is because there are people at Andover for whom the idea of equality does carry weight, because it is something they lack.

I cannot pretend to understand what it means to be a minority student here; I can say, however, that editing the MTJAN articles that week before spring break brought tears to my eyes. Tears of shame at my own woefully ignorant behavior, and tears of empathy for students whom I consider close friends and role models.

This is why intentional diversity matters. This is why we need “Youth from Every Quarter,” as clichéd as that expression is beginning to sound. Because I, who can wander through life always being privileged and “equal,” need a wake up call. I need someone to show me what it means to be “not equal,” because it is something that I will fortunately never have to experience for myself. Because only now that my friends have patiently taken the time to show me these things can I understand that the fight for equality is a necessary one, and is far from over.

I understand that many were hurt by the cartoon and other sentiments expressed in The Phillipian last week. I would like very much to pretend that because I was sick last week, not in the Newsroom, and not involved in deciding what should and should not have run, that I should not be held accountable. I can’t, however, because I know that had I been there, I would have made the exact same call as my fellow editors. This is why intentional diversity matters – because I didn’t realize why this discussion and that cartoon were so hurtful.

At Andover, there is what we can describe as an “orthodoxy” of opinion – yes, the liberal faculty and (generally) liberal student body tend to agree on progressive actions like coeducation and affirmative action. But this orthodoxy has evolved and remains for a reason: it encompasses the values that Andover most esteems. If the orthodoxy this campus adheres to is one of inclusion, one of equality, and one where every member of this community knows that he or she belongs, then so be it.

That being said, you don’t have to agree with me. In fact, Andover encourages us to think critically, and to form our own opinions that don’t necessarily agree with the majority. But I would ask that if you do disagree, to do so respectfully. And more importantly, to do so in a way that does not isolate any member of this community, or leave anyone feeling as if they should not be here.

To this point, I will say one thing. If I learned anything in Proof and Persuasion, it’s that the conclusion of an argument isn’t cogent if the argument itself is based on a false premise, no matter how logical its structure may be. The argument against affirmative action is based on the false premise that Andover is a meritocracy. Merit, however, doesn’t count in a community (or nation, for that matter) that is not yet post-class, post-gender, or post-race.

More important, however, is that the moral argument in favor of intentional diversity trumps the ostensibly logical one. No matter how many case studies and statistics we might supply, exclusion will never be fair. To treat any one group as lesser in any context, or to even assume that any one group is less qualified than another, for that matter, will never be fair. Not only is is it damaging and hurtful, it is downright violent.

I wish that we didn’t have to have these discussions, because they’re painful and stressful and make us feel stupid. They keep us up until 1 AM writing blog posts that no one will read. But I will repeat: the equality that we sometimes maintain we’ve achieved, that we claim exists at Andover, in fact does not. We do not live in a post-class, post-gender, post-race society.

In any case, discuss. I’ve got an AP Calc book waiting for me…

Lily Grossbard, Commentary Editor Vol. CXXXVII

Plip Trip 2014

On April 11, The Phillipian board vol. CXXXVII boarded a bus from GW to New York City. Thanks to the generosity of students, faculty, alumni and friends of the paper, 28 members of our board visited the 9/11 memorial, TED, ABC, CBS and The New York Times. We had such an amazing experience. Phillipian Video Editor Kastan Day put together this video to share our trip!

 

 

Lucky Number Eight

Eight months have elapsed since the last blog post from my admirable predecessor, Stephen Moreland, Editor in Chief vol. CXXXVI. As of today, eight issues of The Phillipian CXXXVII have made their way from our tiny, dusty room in the basement of Morse and into the hands of readers since turnover in February.

The road has been rocky since Stephen&Ko (&Co.) left us blinking in disbelief at the little white box in the top left corner of the A2, where our names no longer fell under those of our always-right, always-watchful Editors. When you thrust over thirty students from varying friend groups into a room, tell them to work together with a deadline hanging over their heads in addition to their tests and papers and sports games, the end result is lots of commiseration, gallons of coffee, Disney music, tears, laughter, angry emails and more tears.

More importantly, through all of this we are left with a sense of camaraderie that you can only attain from attempting to achieve such a seemingly simple but always impossible goal week after week after week. How hard can it be to make sure a few pages of articles are readable and pretty? Very, very hard.

I am incredibly lucky to have met and become friends with some of the most intelligent, dedicated, funny and kind people in the newsroom, ones that I would have never met otherwise. In only eight issues of the paper, we somehow managed to come together as a team to launch our redesigned website, consistently update our Video section, add four new members to the masthead, spend a weekend with a professional consultant on a strategic plan for The Phillipian for the next five years, trek across New York City to visit the New York Times, TED, ABC News, and CBS News, and witness firsthand the eloquence of our peers on a variety of important topics in our own pages. And don’t worry–there is much more to come.

I have many lofty dreams for the paper, many of which focus on better incorporating digital media into The Phillipian. But at the same time, I hope that The Phillipian can be more transparent and share what it’s like to come the closest you ever will as a high school student to a real-time job with you, dear reader. We have so much planned already (sneak peek: State of the Academy 2014 about to hit your email account! And be sure to say hello to Chris Hughes next week), so read on for our adventures in and out of the newsroom. Eight is a lucky number where I grew up in China, and in the eight more months CXXXVII will be in school to print papers, I hope you will join us in our journey towards a more involved, digital future.

Jamie Chen

President and Editor In Chief vol. CXXXVII

La Transición de The Phillípian

The more I think about it, the more correlation I find between The Phillipian and 20th century Spanish politics. I know—sort of a bizarre thought, right? And maybe I’m completely off-point, but at least hear me out.

First, a bit on 20th century Spain:

I’ll begin with the Second Republic (en español: La Segunda República; 1931-1936), an era known for its fresh, liberal perspective on Spanish politics. Social reform was one of the most popular avenues for government intervention during the Second Republic. Come 1936, however, Spain realized it wasn’t quite ready for so much change and the Second Republic fell.

Following a three year civil war (en español: La Guerra Civil; 1936-1939), Francisco Franco rose to power. During Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975), Spain adopted a conservative political vision. As part of the Spanish Phalanx (en español: La Falange), Franco reversed much of the liberal progress made during the Second Republic—reform programs ended and the separation between church and state dissolved.

In 1975, Franco died and Juan Carlos I rose to power as the next King of Spain. And almost immediately, Juan Carlos I began to dismantle the Franco regime and foster Spain’s transition to democracy. While there is no definitive date, it is often said that the adoption of Spain’s new constitution in 1978 marked the beginning of Spanish democracy. From that point on, Spain has upheld its commitment to democracy.

So, what the @#%$ does 20th century Spain have to do with The Phillipian? For the past couple of years, The Phillipian has been in its very own transition—moving further into the digital world.

The Phillipian became digital in 2008 when it released its first website. And until 2011, that was pretty much the extent of the paper’s online involvement. But between 2011 and 2012, the online team endorsed a slew of new online initiatives like Facebook, Twitter, blogs and online-exclusive articles (an influx of change similar to that of the Second Republic). These suggestions overwhelmed the editors, who consequently put the brakes on all of the digital advancement, save the website, and returned to the familiarity of newsprint (much like Franco’s reversal of liberal reform).

This fall, however, The Phillipian has made noticeable adjustments to its digital presence. Across the paper, we are realigning our philosophy to better match the demands of today’s reader. Now, not only is there a push to more frequently publish articles online, but a growing emphasis on enriching the online reader-experience with multimedia. Every section actively uses individual Twitter feeds to send live reports from sports games, theater and dance performances, student life and presentations. And the online team is nearing completion of both a native iOS application and a complete redesign of the The Phillipian‘s website.

Although The Phillipian has yet to fully integrate itself with the digital world, the entire staff, from the reporters to the editors, are all-in. The paper is turning into something great, something better than it has ever been. I don’t know when this transition will be complete, nor do I know everything that it will entail. Though, what I (and the people who lived in 20th century Spain) do know is that change is as difficult as it is exciting.

Stephen Moreland
Editor in Chief vol. CXXXVI

Crossing Campuses

Last Wednesday, a small group of our editors took a bus over to Lawrence to meet with the amazing journalism class of Sondra Longo, an English teacher at the Humanities & Leadership Development High School (HLD). Though it was initially awkward as we entered the classroom, the conversation opened up as we started talking about ourselves and our newspaper. The students gushed eagerly about one of their first assignments – to cover the mayoral election – and it was clear that they were incredibly passionate about journalism. At the end, our advisor Nina Scott asked everyone to write on a piece of paper two things:

  1. What do you most fear at the moment?
  2. What brings you the most joy?

Stephen, Anika, Sophia and I read through the scraps of paper later that night. The replies surprised us with their honesty, but also in their similarity. Fears: “My grades.” “Disappointment.” “Paying for college.” “Finding a job.” Joys: “My friends.” “Family.” “Doing something I truly believe in.” Without names, the responses of Andover students and Lawrence High students were indistinguishable. Our experiences as young people growing up in Andover and Lawrence seemed, for all their differences, very similar.

For the first time, tomorrow’s issue of The Phillipian will feature off-campus news in a section named Cross Campus. The first issue with Cross Campus contains three stories, all of which were reported and written by students in the journalism class of HLD.

The creation of this new section not only means broadening the scope of The Phillipian‘s reporting, it also represents a practice of empathy between our two communities. Being at Andover creates a consuming culture of seclusion. We arrive on campus and quickly get caught up in our work and social lives, falling into the same chatter about math tests and developing our own jargon of “Commons,” “Lowers,” “Uppers,” and “sign-in” that, to outsiders, seems to be its own unintelligible language. In the newsroom, especially, shielded from cell service, we often find ourselves pretending that our world is bounded by the Bell Tower, our Covenant hours and the articles we need to edit by Thursday.

It’s far too easy to stay within our own campus borders and stop reaching out, stop connecting with new people, and stop learning or caring about each other. As Cross Campus hopefully grows to schools beyond Lawrence High, I hope that the section draws our attention not only to each other’s differences, but also to our similarities, prompting us to extend our interest and empathy to communities outside of our immediate surroundings.

Janine Ko

Executive Editor vol. CXXXVI

Bytes and Pieces

Today The Phillipian board met to discuss improving the paper’s digital presence. Associates and senior editors alike worked together to brainstorm ideas for the first time of the year. Our increased presence in the digital arena means an altered workflow and approach to content.  It’s a rare instance in which everyone on the board stands to learn something from the process, and innovation will have to coexist with tradition.

As we work towards a more media heavy version of the news, we are forced to confront an age old question: does the form fundamentally alter the message? How will readers react to the new formats? The internet is known for its abbreviated style of communication, so will subscribers expect something similar of our paper?

And perhaps just as importantly, how will the editors react? Despite being students well versed in the programs of the decade, we anchor our work in the assumption that our pieces will reach out to readers from dusty sheets of newsprint. In some ways, that assumption is our symbol of integrity. Could a more dominant online presence then threaten that sense of integrity?

The answer, I believe, lies in what we as a board plan to sacrifice. In order to ensure a successful digitization of our content, we must let go of certain familiar customs. We will have to relearn the tools and tricks of layout. We will have to rethink what draws readers in, and the speed at which content is demanded. Most importantly, we will have to be open to new ideas, and we must remember that with a new medium comes different degrees of freedom. All this is possible, and necessary.

We must not, however, sacrifice our integrity. The ease with which information can be posted may tempt us to favor efficiency over quality. But we cannot afford to loose sight of what the paper means to begin with: our promise to inform the public, as fairly and accurately as possible. Thus we will find ourselves walking two paths: the path of integrity and the path of creativity.

So far from the form altering the content, my hope is that the content will alter the form. Rather than infusing our pieces with the ephemeral nature of the internet, I hope we will learn to shape our website with the integrity of our articles. The key lies in accepting that change will come, and that by understanding it we can take a solid step into the virtual realm of cyberspace.

Joey Salvo

Commentary Editor vol. CXXXVI

Mold? Oh no!

That’s right—you read it. The Phillipian’s newsroom has a mold problem.

A couple of days ago, Andover’s Archivist, Paige Roberts, e-mailed me to say that the basement of Morse Hall had encountered an issue with mold over the summer. I visited the room on Friday, and although much of the furniture will need to be replaced and the walls re-painted, there doesn’t seem to be too much damage.

The Phillipian has a closet, separate from the newsroom, full of old issues dating back to the early 2000s (anything older is stored in the Academy Archives). Luckily, that room seems to have evaded the mold. We did, however, store the commencement issues from 2013, 2012 and 2011 in the newsroom—yikes! I set aside about 75 from each of the three years on Friday and, along with Ms. Roberts, will be in touch with a local company that conducts mold remediation on paper products. The damage to the physical papers is little if any, so we expect them to be fine.

Andover’s Office of the Physical Plant (OPP) will begin the remediation/cleaning of the newsroom on Monday. All of us involved in the paper feel grateful for the tremendous help we have received from both OPP and Ms. Roberts with this problem. Thanks, guys!

The plan is for the newsroom to be all set and ready to go by early September (when students arrive on campus and the paper resumes its usual publishing schedule). If anything, I’m excited for a fresh start in the newsroom!

Stephen Moreland
Editor in Chief vol. CXXXVI

Musings on a Digital Future

Author’s note: The following is a compilation of ideas on the digital future for The Phillipian from various notes I have sent to members of The Phillipian board, advisors, and community members. I would like to thank Kevin Song `11 (Online CXXXIII), Eric Ouyang `13 (Online CXXXIV and CXXXV), and Alex Jiang `15 (Online Associate CXXXVI) for their input and editing expertise.


We are at a crossroads in the way that media is both created and consumed. I believe the fundamental shift is that everyone is now a producer of content. With a smartphone, anyone can be quasi-journalists through tools like Twitter and Instagram. As we know, this has led to a world where information is faster and more concise than ever before. Photos are now squares, videos are six second clips, text is 140 characters, and a vast majority of media is consumed on a mobile devices. The fact of the matter is that our weekly news cycle is far too slow for the speed that information rushes from person to people in 2013.

Online-first future.

The big transition for the paper will be the move to an online-first mentality instead of the traditional print-first approach to publishing news. Moving to online-fist will involve widespread changes that may further complicate the already complicated workflow of producing a weekly paper. Sure, everything will run on a shorter deadline, but in the end it will make producing the paper less of a Thursday afternoon crunch and more about the constant production of quality, timely material. The other concern in going online-first is whether it will detract from the novelty of the paper on Friday. While this may be true, remember that easily half of The New York Times is online before the paper comes out in printed form. Moving to online-first is an essential change for the paper, but will take serious planning, flexibility, and support from everyone involved.

Online can go deeper.

One of the greatest assets of online is that we don’t have page-counts or color limits. Thus, we can utilize online to do things that can’t be done in the paper. We can have longer articles with more images. We can make mini-sites like State of the Academy. But, I think the best thing we can do to go deeper is leverage the online platform to spark conversations. Back when when the co-presidential race and the gender imbalance in leadership was a major issue on campus, The Phillipian provided a platform for the conversation to take place. More broadly, I hope we can make online both a news service and a venue for discourse about Andover. After all, twenty-first century news sources exist to not only provide conversation, but to facilitate it. That is how we can truly add value to the Andover community.

Online can scale.

Along with centralizing important conversations on campus, being digital allows for our content to be shared in a way that is radically different than before. Up until relatively recently, the reach of The Phillipian (or any newspaper for that matter) was directly tied to the number of people who could get their hands on the physical paper. Now, unique online viewership equals almost a hundred times the number of on-campus subscribers, thus the scale of The Phillipian’s reach has increased drastically. The reach of our content now goes beyond the greater Andover community. People unaffiliated with the school are debating topics in the comments section and sharing content with their friends. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen.

Focus on sharing.

I believe this is a direct byproduct of the ability to quickly consume and share content. I can (hypothetically) get any piece of content I share in front of 1,689 faces with the click of a button. One of the most advantageous things that we can do for the paper is create a tools that make sharing easier from our viewers. We have implemented tools like Twitter cards, so that you can preview articles without opening a separate browser window from Twitter. We set up a short url (http://phll.pn) so tweeters can have more characters for the body of their tweets. More tweaks like these go a long way to encourage sharing.

Experience = magic.

Even as the online person, I admit that I cherish the experience of going to the mailroom and picking up a physical paper. There is something about the weight, texture, and color that makes the experience magical. Just the turning of the pages and discovery that it entails can’t be mimicked by any iPad app. With all respect to Eric, my predecessor and former co-head, he would be the first to admit that the website does not have the optimal experience. Well, Eric says that the website is “standard with the conventions of other websites when he built the site in 2011.” I am not trying to propose that the digital paper needs to feel the same way as the print paper.

No, I believe that online needs to have an element which makes it special–almost magic. Just as print newspapers were, and in some ways, still are. Right now, news sites are dry. Just look at the New York Times homepage–it looks like a more jumbled version of their front page. Disorganized, scattered, with pieces of silver lining here and there. Slowly but surely, sites around the world are evolving into entities of their own, with their own special–nay, magical–elements of photo essays, interactive maps, and beautiful innovative ways of presenting data in a fresh way. For The Phillipian, my hunch is that this magical element will come in the form of interactive features, things like the State of the Academy website which make the stories come to life. The magic is in not the only how the website makes articles shine, but how the website delivers value on its own. But one thing is sure, the website needs to be redesigned.

Mobile matters.

Everything is mobile, but The Phillipian isn’t. 90-something percent of our traffic comes from desktop computers. While, mobile queries online account for 15% of all search queries, the fact of the matter is that mobile is the future of media consumption (via KPCB Internet Trends). I don’t think we need to become a mobile-first website, but I think we should at least acknowledge the significance of mobile and how it has changed the way that we consume information.

Always be building.

I guess this is partially my fault, but up until recently we have not approach online with the “move fast” approach we should have. While we have picked up our digital efforts recently with The Newsroom blog and State of the Academy, both of which turned out very well, we need to keep up this momentum. We have all the skills and tools necessary to building new things, we just need to make it a priority. Again, this needs to start by having online be an aspect of the weekly production, instead of an afterthought. As we showed with State of the Academy, with the right content and time we can make online “magical.” I started make a mockup of a new design before the end of term. (n.b.: it is hosted on my own domain, because I did not want to mess with The Phillipian website and it does not work properly on mobile)

Veritas?

Yet, the rise in accessibility and speed as a result of these tools, coincides directly with questions of journalistic integrity. As the “veritas” of Andover community, we have the balance the impulse to “move fast” with the liability of “breaking” our trust in the Andover community. I trust (and respect) my peers in the newsroom greatly, and I am not particularly concerned about this being a major issue, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Saturation?

One of my greatest worries about online is whether we will reach a point of saturation (i.e. more content does not necessarily add to “the conversation”). At times I feel that the print version of the paper can lead to AIDs (anti-information disorder), which is when people are presented with so much information that they shut themselves off to the conversation. I think that the best way to combat this is by offering news in a variety of forms, which is possible through digital tools. By varying the ways that people consume content, we can create an overall sticker experience and mitigate the chance of our content becoming “unproductive.”

Growing Online.

Online does not have enough people right now. To be serious about online, we’ll need to have more technical talent on the board. Logan (the better half of online), Alex, Ellie, and I can’t do this alone. Moreover, we are going to need everyone on the board to buy into our vision of The Phillipian where online and print coexist synergistically. If you are even remotely interested in getting involved with our digital efforts, please reach out to me! We would love to grow the online team!

Onward and upward!

Gregory Hosono
Online Head, vol. CXXXVI

Happy Summer from the News Section!

That last post is a tough act to follow, but someone had to do it! So here goes my first Phillipian blog post. One may think that over the summer we at The Phillipian are on complete vacation doing no newspaper work whatsoever while we are on our 13-week hiatus from the world of high school newspaper publishing. And that person would basically be right. As a News Editor, my summer vacation has been filled with college tours, subsequent fights with parents about said college tours, reunions with Home Friends, heartfelt texts to School Friends about how we miss each other, lazy days on the beach and even my first few days of my summer job.

While all this has been fun, relaxing and/or stressful, we can never completely put The Phillipian out of our minds; it’s not how we’re wired. So it’s not entirely surprising to get an e-mail from Stephen updating us about his escapades in San Francisco where he’s working with the Online Guys (as Nina so lovingly refers to them although it might be just as easy to refer to Greg and Logan by name) on the upcoming website re-design as well as new things for the fall. It’s also not surprising to get a follow-up e-mail from Janine that she decides to start as a Summer News Brainstorm.

Our typical brainstorm e-mail chain process during the school year starts on Wednesday (or Thursday when we actually remember to send it out) and continues until Friday evening when we start compiling assignments for writers. This summer brainstorm I worry could take a mind of its own and snowball out of control with an unlimited timeframe and no school assignments competing for our attention. We have also just this week begun to use Trello, a web program through which we can easily manage tasks within our sections—although I couldn’t really tell you how it works because I haven’t personally used it yet.

Anyway, as per usual, Janine is chock full of ideas for cool features that we’ll get some poor associates working on over the summer (just kidding, we editors are working on them too—it’s all about collaboration) and there are some great things happening around campus we can’t wait to report on! So while the print issue is at rest, keep an eye on online because the News Team never really sleeps. (Well we do, but rarely more than four hours a night!)

Emma Mehlman
News Editor, vol. CXXXVI