Vidette Changes editori_07232020

The Vidette is currently going through, as it has been dubbed, a “transformation.” It’s important to use that word, transformation, because many think we’re closing our doors.

It’s not clear yet how these changes will take shape. As of right now, The Vidette and the School of Communication have been given a deadline of just under a year to get things settled. Nearly 133 years of routine and paper production will be upended within a year.

The university has cited that “programmatic changes” are needed to secure the future of The Vidette. However, we want to destroy the notion that The Vidette is an old, dying paper in need of pity or salvation.

It has also been said these changes are being made to reflect a changing field. Journalism is no longer separated into fields of broadcast and print. Instead the fields are merging, which is often referred to as convergence.

There are many opportunities for convergence at The Vidette. There are opportunities for video content production, as evidenced by our Bird on the Street videos and our ViddyVlog. Additionally, in the past year we had multiple podcasts running at the same time covering a variety of topics. We have won awards for our multimedia coverage. To say The Vidette does not provide a view of a changing field is a false and offensive claim that overlooks the hard work done by students preparing for the real world.

This isn’t meant to sound all doom and gloom. We hope, sincerely, The Vidette survives in a meaningful way. As it stands now, Dean Diane Zosky said the program will be brought into the School of Communication curriculum fold. How the Vidette model will apply in a class setting is one of the determinations that must be made by the committee that is currently being formed.

Overall, we hope the changes will provide a long-term future for The Vidette and continue to provide the learning-lab environment that has taught and created so many outstanding journalists. A learning-lab environment that has for many years operated without any significant cost to the university.

But that is no easy task. How do you provide necessary newsroom experience without operating as a true newsroom? Classroom experience is great. Classrooms are good to teach you the ABCs of AP Style, but how does a classroom teach breaking news? How does a classroom teach meaningful storytelling? How does a classroom tell you how to deal with the mental and emotional strain that comes from reporting? There is so much to be learned, as any Vidette editor will tell you, that cannot be taught in a classroom.

There are many details that need to be ironed out to prepare The Vidette for this great change. In the meantime, we hope the administration does not forget the hardworking students who are already, before class has even started, putting countless hours a week in maintaining an online news presence as well as a digital paper.

These students put their free time and effort into this work because they love it, and we give them compensation for it. In a classroom setting, that work does not receive compensation, and the motivation and work ethic may suffer greatly for it.

While the changes are upsetting, we admit that they are necessary. Advertising dollars have dried up as businesses rely less on print advertising, especially in the age of COVID-19. But The Vidette wants to assert that this change does not come from a lack of quality education or experience, and that is proven by the many quality journalists who walked through our doors.

We are grateful to the university for working with us to solve these financial problems. However, the idea that this change comes from lack of quality or productivity would be an opportunity at sweeping this publication under the rug for the sake of saving some dollars. It is easy to view The Vidette as an old, dying paper. We ask you to remember the truth of the situation, and the value of the experiences that happen within our four walls which is worth its weight in gold.

ELIZABETH SEILS is Editor in Chief of The Vidette. She can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter at @SeilsElizabeth 

IF YOU SUPPORT THE VIDETTE MISSION of providing a training laboratory for Illinois State University student journalists to learn and sharpen viable, valuable and marketable skills in all phases of print and digital media, please consider contributing to this most important cause. Thank you.

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