Editor’s Note: What journalism means to me but also CWRU

Editor’s Note

Few fields other than journalism will have you examine law school lawsuits one week and lost weather balloons the next. I’m fortunate to say that I’ve been able to cover both over my time on the staff of The Observer, among other topics.

My time at The Observer kicked off almost immediately after setting foot on campus. I picked Case Western Reserve University partly because I knew I would be able to work for the school newspaper; at other universities a journalism major is required.

I’ve had a passion for journalism since high school, where we were fortunate enough to have a strong newspaper. Our advisor was an old-school journalist, great at teaching how to report, but perhaps more importantly, he taught us how to push the proper buttons and ask the hard, critical questions.

After matriculating to CWRU, I would not have expected that four years later, I’d be in the place to pass on the paper’s top position. With a mix of sadness and, in honesty, a bit of relief, I’ll be passing on The Observer’s Executive Editor position to the talented, passionate Taylor Moran, our current Director of Business, next week. The Observer will be in good hands.

I wanted to take a moment to thank CWRU for both supporting journalism and offering some words of encouragement for where it could improve. I would like to thank campus administrators for not overstepping onto the functioning of the newspaper during my time on staff. Prior review, or at least attempted prior review, occurs all too often at universities, especially private schools, and destroys any attempts at dialogue. Criticism and dialogue are the only way for big institutions like a university to get past bureaucratic inertia. Criticism and dialogue lead to growth.

When administrators or other campus staff had concerns with an article, it has always been a conversation over coffee regarding their issues, never a demand. And these have been infrequent; criticism has been understood.

Thank you to those in the CWRU community who offer their most important resource, their time, to The Observer’s reporters. This is especially true of the administrators we frequently work with in the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of University Marketing and Communications who are always available for help and interviews.

However, the community is not without room for improvement. Many offices are still slow or uninformative. This is especially the case when it comes to sharing CWRU’s finances. (Part of this, with regard to housing room rates, was highlighted by the ingoing and outgoing Residence Hall Association presidents in their letter to the editor last week.) CWRU administrators still often keep a tight lid on information that they should have no problem sharing.

I feel that administrators can fall into the trap of thinking that by sharing information, the campus community may have reason to be upset. But it is typically the opposite: Students are more frustrated by a lack of information than by a decision itself. Taking a genuine chance to explain yourself will always be more constructive with students; they will be more likely to empathize when they see an honest attempt.

Additionally, I would love to see CWRU further support journalism by improving its career opportunities in the field via the career center. Several individuals on our staff are pursuing careers in journalism post-graduation, and CWRU offers little support to making critical connections.

Last, with the popularity of the classes taught by Professor Jim Sheeler, the Shirley Wormser Professor of Journalism and Media Writing, CWRU should tap into the local journalism community to offer even more courses. I am extremely thankful for the time Sheeler has put into teaching and supporting me and the staff as a whole. Even more enriching opportunities for future students through the world of journalism should be considered.

With that said, thank you to everyone I have worked with on The Observer for a wonderful four years. This organization has been my home, and I’m excited to see where it takes off from here.

Mike McKenna
Executive Editor