Kayla Missman is a journalism senior and Mustang News editor-in-chief.
I can truly say this week is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
As editor-in-chief of Mustang News, I sit at a unique vantage point to watch these events unfold. Receiving press releases, talking to reporters and attending events has allowed me to see many sides of these issues.
At the Thursday protest, I was literally moved to tears — whether or not you agree with the cause, you’ve got to admit that 1,000 members of the Cal Poly community marching across campus is an incredible sight. I’ve never seen our campus unite so strongly. Though some have come together to mourn student deaths, fight against the semester system or even discuss diversity issues in the past, this week stands out.
I’m in journalism because I love talking to a variety of people, hearing their stories and understanding their passions. And this outburst of passion, motivation and simply caring about something on an otherwise apathetic campus was remarkable to watch.
But my job is not to offer my opinion on the issues, so I won’t. I would, however, like to explain a bit about the role Mustang News (and media in general) plays in campus activism.
It’s hard to picture how this week would’ve played out had Mustang News not covered it so closely. When we received the list of 41 demands, we published it as quickly as we could, knowing it followed a national trend of college students rising against a lack of diversity in higher education. We expected it to gain some traction.
We didn’t expect what transpired over the next several days.
Publishing the 41 demands article (and the document in its entirety) sparked a campus dialogue unlike any I’ve witnessed in my three short years at Cal Poly. Had we not published that article, it’s likely that there would have been small discussions and continued events from various groups on campus. But the document wouldn’t have been seen by 18,000 people, and it wouldn’t have led to such heated discussion — or, perhaps, the events that occurred last week.
You see, one of the media’s main roles is facilitating discussion, especially when it’s about an issue that could potentially affect 20,000 people (and the future of our university). We can do this by publishing updated, relevant content covering the events; by allowing free conversation in the comments section; and by publishing a variety of perspectives on both sides of the debate.
To meet this role, we wanted to let all voices be heard in a very public forum. That’s how the “campus conversation” hub on our website was developed — it’s a virtual space to read contradicting opinions. Rather than filtering out the opinions we agreed with, we published a variety of submissions from both sides of the debate.
What’s more, hosting these opinion pieces serves as an excellent archival resource. These thoughts and events are documented on our website, and could quite possibly reflect a time of significant change in Cal Poly’s history.
As the events unfolded — a death threat, a protest, a massive march, letters of support, an arrest — this easily became the most alive dead week I’ve ever witnessed. It became clear that the community needed an outlet to voice concerns, thoughts or support.
We provided the facts, and the thoughtful, critical conversations taking place in our comments section reaffirmed how crucial Mustang News’ role was in this situation. Not only did our coverage bring more light to the issues at hand, it gave students, faculty, staff and community members a place to discuss something that affected them all.
I’m proud that we provided that.
If you’d like to discuss anything further, or you have questions about Mustang News’ policies, operation or coverage, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m glad to talk.