When I first got involved with The Rider News, I never expected it to be the most defining endeavor of my life. Over the 60 articles I wrote, the connections I established with administration, faculty and students, as well as mastering the art of archival research, chasing down sources, and presenting the information I gathered in a cohesive piece played such an instrumental role in developing my craft as a journalist. From covering issues, such as the progression made with a gender-inclusive homecoming court, the termination of The Shadow, the free speech debacle on college campuses and a reflective piece on the campus’ history of blackface, I discovered the heart of the community, full of complications but still strong. Even the challenging moments where I, along with my fellow editors, were stigmatized by university officials for being a part of the media when reporting on issues, I did not allow myself to be discouraged.
I strived to be as fearless in the face of frustration at the encouragement of my esteemed mentor, The Rider News Faculty Advisor Jackie Incollingo. All the tools I am taking with me, as I venture off to graduate school, I learned from her— journalistic resilience, ethics and of course, the importance of the Associated Press Stylebook. The communications department provides such scholarly faculty that ignited the spark I have for journalism into a full-fledged fire. I became a sponge in their classes, and absorbed every piece of lessons that were presented to me about the execution of storytelling. As I continue onward in furthering my education, I anticipate those continuing after me will hold the same passion for holding individuals accountable and capturing the essence of human perseverance. And I know under the guidance of Executive Editor Stephen Neukam and Managing Editor Lauren Minore, they will. I don’t report on Rider’s controversies because I hate this school, quite the contrary. What captivates me about journalism is that this profession reports on the beauty and flaws of humanity because there is an intense care for it. Instead of passively watching like ordinary citizens, journalists take the pain, happiness or anger they witness and retell those events in an unbiased way to guide the audience to make issues matter. Both the positive and negative reactions that readers have had from my stories prove my influence.
Do you, as students, realize the power that you have to make such a difference? The most deflating response I ever get from students is when they refuse to comment in fear of suffering repercussions if they voice disapproval. What students need to know is they should never be afraid to question authority or leadership of an organization, or the school they are attending. Social reform happens when someone is brave enough to speak up against injustice. Freshman arts and entertainment industries management major Jamie Hafner is the perfect example of that with her “Letter to the Editor.” Her words inspired the renaming of Gourmet Dining’s healthy eating challenge from “The Biggest Loser at Rider” to “The Healthy U Challenge” due to its problematic implication of encouraging extreme weight loss.
The silence of the Student Government Association (SGA) and its lack of outreach reassurance, especially when students were hurt over the uncovering of Rider’s blackface, a dean stepping down due to her religious beliefs and a controversial event intended to lessen the identity of members of the campus community, was deafening.
When the Board of Trustees announced its decision to sell Westminster Choir College (WCC), SGA’s then-executive board released a campus-wide email on March 28, 2017, expressing uncertainty on where this resolution places the University’s value on the arts and preserving the identity of WCC’s artistic excellence. The 2017-2018 board continued to remain transparent, updating students on every step of unfolding events. When I received these messages, I felt comforted that SGA prioritized and willingly fought for the student body, rather than being lap dogs for the administration. In times of SGA’s current reticence and external inadequacy, the student body must be vocal, and The Rider News is where you can be heard. I am so proud that our award-winning Opinion Editor Qur’an Hansford presents such a representation of a diverse student population with her editorials. With my closing reflection, I urge everyone to become a presence within this community and get involved— advocate for change instead of complaining. I owe so much to this institution for all its taught me, and I hope you all aspire to be just as curious.
senior journalism major