Columns, Opinion

Final Word: A letter from the editor

I sent in my application to The Daily Free Press the May before my freshman year at Boston University even began. I knew what I wanted to spend my four years doing, but I didn’t expect that after just three semesters, I would already be saying goodbye.

Home, for me, is our basement underneath the cookie store at the heart of Commonwealth Avenue. I’ve slept in there, curled up in a onesie on my desk, after long nights with my managing editor Sarah by my side — albeit virtually.

Alexia Nizhny/DFP STAFF

See, I was always tempted to call this little nook the place where our newspaper comes to life. But I’ve learned this semester that’s simply not true. If the FreeP’s first full semester of remote work has taught us anything, it’s that a publication’s capabilities aren’t bound by the walls of a newsroom.

Our staff has demonstrated resilience beyond what I could have dared ask of them during a pandemic that has uprooted so many lives. They showed up day after day, whether it be on Zoom or Slack, and worked from across the country to document an era of unprecedented changes at BU and in Boston.

My editorial board stepped into their roles more than seven months ago and began breaking news immediately to keep up with the whirlwind of new developments that came as soon as classes ended in the Spring. Summer break didn’t quite exist for us: we end our term having published 1,024 stories over the equivalent of two semesters.

But it wasn’t just us. College papers across the country proved this year just how much our communities need the information we provide. When historians ask how higher education navigated contentious endeavors to reopen in the midst of a full-blown public health crisis, they will turn to the digital archives laid down by student reporters.

From the emergence of BU’s hybrid learning model and on-campus COVID-19 testing program to the consequences Learn from Anywhere would impose on professors and graduate students, we spent the summer capturing each nuance. In June, we posed students’ questions to President Robert Brown himself.

Along with the University’s reopening inevitably came controversies, such as a dean’s request that professors self-censor language about the pandemic and inconsistencies surrounding whether faculty would be notified if a student in their class tested positive for the coronavirus.

2020 was also the year of a renewed nationwide civil rights movement. We covered nights of Black Lives Matter protests in Boston through the summer and fall, all while documenting the City’s reopening progress.

And, we had the honor of chronicling the most historic presidential election in our young lifetimes, including the day Boston erupted in celebration when the president-elect was finally called after days of anticipation.

When I took the helm of the FreeP at 18 years old, I knew it would be the toughest journey of my life. I was right.

Despite my many run-ins with BU officials who pushed back against what we published, one line from an email I wrote captures our journalism best: “If we have given off the impression that we’re unfair to the University, we likely have also given off the impression that we’re unfair to all its critics.”

Fair reporting means we cater to no one and nothing but the truth, and especially in a time when everybody has so much at stake, we have strived relentlessly to paint the fullest picture possible through our storytelling.

To my fellow editors — Sarah, Melissa, Allie, Cammy, Colbi, Max, Amber, Lauryn, Justin — it is your diligence that’s helped us succeed in doing so. While I am certain we have not been perfect in ensuring no perspective has slipped through the cracks, I also earnestly believe we have carried out our duty well.

We, like all our peers, have had so much ripped away from us. You all deserved to experience those late nights laughing in the newsroom while stress-eating from a mountain of snacks piled atop the center table in our basement. Instead, you were forced to edit for hours alone in your rooms, listening to nothing but the taps of your fingers on laptop keys.

You never knew the in-person traditions we were supposed to share as an eboard, never familiarized yourself with the tales behind those goofy artifacts laying around the office. I mourn what we’ve lost, yet I can’t help but celebrate the bonds we have built despite the odds.

Though some of us have never physically met, our impassioned Zoom discussions and hysterical Slack jokes have facilitated lifelong friendships regardless. I will miss you guys so dearly, and I can’t wait for the day we all gather for the first time to share real hugs.

It has been a privilege to serve the school and city I love as editor-in-chief of this proudly independent paper — and I mean that literally. This is an unpaid, 40–50-hour-per-week gig for a full semester. No matter how dedicated a student is to our craft, anyone who must work part-time jobs to support themselves in college are at an inherent disadvantage.

Journalism is a field that tends to be inaccessible from the start. Too often, it extracts our labor for grossly inadequate compensation. As students, we are “paid” in experience. But some of us can’t afford to spare the grueling hours it takes to really benefit from that in the first place.

Student editors deserve to get paid. This is not only fair, but would open eboard seats to an array of valuable perspectives that have been pushed out for far too long. It would improve our journalism by helping us better represent the wider student body.

The problem remains, however, that the FreeP is quite broke. Our board of directors has made progress toward the launch of a stipend program, which would be a first step toward real compensation for our editors, and fundraising for it will begin in the Spring.

So, if you appreciate independent local journalism, I urge you to donate — if not to us, then to another newspaper that serves your community.

Like many local papers today, the FreeP needs your support. Student journalists need your support. Only then can we continue bringing essential information to the fore.

Angela Yang

Fall 2020 Editor-in-Chief, The Daily Free Press

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One Comment

  1. What beautiful and powerful words from an extraordinary human. Bravo to an amazing, trailblazing semester!