The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Last spring, as you may recall if you’re not new to SUNY Oswego, there was a bit of contention between the “Big Three” media & publication organizations at the college — The Oswegonian, WNYO, and WTOP-10 — and Student Association (SA) over funding issues (The Oswegonian has covered the proceedings on their website here). As I watched these events unfold, I felt support for my fellow students in the media organizations, and for transparency around finance issues. However, I was not without some confusion and frustration about the type of language being used.
As a member of Her Campus Oswego, and at the time their Senior Editor (soon-to-be Editor-in-Chief), I knew quite well what the core goals of our magazine were, which are publication of articles on the website; in fact, our national organization is named “Her Campus Media.” When I initially joined Her Campus Oswego at the Fall ‘19 Involvement Fair, it had been pitched to me as “the only women-centered media organization on campus,” which is the main reason why I joined. I also considered that I was also involved in two other organizations on this campus with similar publishing priorities: Great Lake Review and Subnivean. The more I thought about the grouping and labeling of the “Big Three,” the more I understood the moniker as a way to elevate these organizations as outside the classroom enrichment opportunities. However, this label also unintentionally, but clearly, closes these organizations off from Her Campus Oswego, Great Lake Review (GLR), and Subnivean. In effect, the “Big Three” label adds increased value to The Oswegonian, WNYO, and WTOP-10, while lowering the credibility of the three other media & publication organizations, making them seem unworthy to students in a way that the “Big Three” aren’t.
The sting is palpable to Her Campus especially, not just because I am the Editor-in-Chief of this organization or that our publication format is very similar to The Oswegonian’s, but because we are the only media organization on campus that is focused specifically on empowering diverse women writers and content creators; a rarity in both the media and publication worlds.
This article is not meant to be a push-back on The Oswegonian, WNYO, or WTOP-10, especially when those organizations helped to boost Her Campus Oswego in the past. I eventually tweeted about my frustration, which went semi-viral on Oswego-Twitter, gaining Her Campus Oswego support and a voice in the conversation by students helping to run the “Big Three” and keeping SA accountable.
I was (and am) incredibly grateful for that support. Though, when I originally tweeted, I was terrified of stepping into some kind of exclusive club that Her Campus had purposefully not been invited to. After all, we were nearly identical in structure to The Oswegonian. Surely there was a reason why the “Big Three” was not the “Big Four.” (I also later came to find out that Her Campus Oswego was erroneously not registered that academic year as a media organization by previous leadership; this has since been amended.) My voice was vindicated though, and Her Campus Oswego was recognized and heard… for a time, anyway.
My goal in writing this article is to introduce a way to rethink the language on this campus concerning how we perceive the value of the media and publication organizations that are offered. I know how much value the “Big Three” add to the curriculum and student life of Broadcasting & Mass Communications and Journalism majors, along with the draw for potential students to attend SUNY Oswego, which is the main argument that was used when they fought for funding from SA. However, that argument certainly applies to Her Campus Oswego, GLR, and Subnivean. As a member of all three of these organizations, I have had to consistently perform skills that are taught in the “Big Three” media organizations — continuously contributing my own original content and ideas, sharpen my skills on editing, accepting, and rejecting content, determining audience needs and wants, learning how to present myself and my work, coordinating with student & faculty supervisors and team members, hosting events that included prominent members of the field, learning to work with specific technology, marketing both on and off social media, and many, many more duties. Many of these skills have been done on no budget at all, unlike the “Big Three.” These activities have enriched not just my academic career and resumé, but also bonded me to the people I have met; these connections will last a lifetime. Ask anyone in the “Big Three,” and I can guarantee they would repeat word for word what I just wrote to describe their experience within those organizations.
I know that there is an argument that could be made that the Great Lake Review and Subnivean cater nearly exclusively to Creative Writing majors, along with that the “Big Three” are more valuable because they are reporting on current events. While I can understand these perspectives, I don’t necessarily agree with either of them — the GLR and Subnivean are reporting on current events, just not in the same format or perspective as the traditional media. The winning Spring ’21 poetry submissions to Subnivean by Chaun Ballard, “On a Spring Day, an Interracial Couple & Variations of the N-Word Substituted with Wildflower” and “Possible Titles for a Love Poem,” contain important perspectives and commentary on racism against black people in America, an ever-present issue in the public’s consciousness after the death of George Floyd and uprising of the BLM movement in the summer of 2020. Angie Kang’s winning fiction submission, “Still Life,” details the Chinese-American and immigrant experience, just as our national conversation heats up on how to protect AAPI people from hate crimes. GLR routinely publishes student work that documents experiences from those struggling with mental illness, such as Libby Morel’s “Breathing Exercises: How to Calm the Chaos” in the Spring ’21 edition. A timely topic, considering 1 in 5 adults in America today suffer from mental illnesses, which was not helped by the isolation caused by the pandemic.
News stories do not live inside a vacuum. We report on things because they make us feel things. How and why we feel those things is captured in creative writing. While journalism may strive to document events from an unbiased perspective, creative writing is entirely personal bias, creating a full picture of our present moment by telling the internal stories of our everyday lives — pain, pleasure, anger, happiness, sadness, despair, joy, confusion, and every other feeling.
As for the GLR and Subnivean catering only to CRW majors, I believe this point is moot considering that not only is creativity a valuable skill in Broadcasting & Mass Communications, but that both publications need areas outside of creative writers in marketing and publicity, event hosting, media and art production, website and program knowledge, and copywriting.
In reality, the “Big Three” should be the “Big Six” — The Oswegonian, Her Campus Oswego, WNYO, WTOP-10, Great Lake Review, and Subnivean. The purpose that these six media and publication organizations serve is the same: to bond students with each other and the campus and give them practical skills for their careers that aren’t always taught in the classroom.
Not only does changing the language of the “Big Three” to the “Big Six” make it more inclusive, it also encourages students to branch out from any organization predetermined to be affiliated with their major. Having creative writers in WNYO is valuable, as is having a social media guru in Subnivean (which, by the way, if you want to get involved with, take CRW 313 or email Professor Frazier).
My last point is about funding. All six media & publication organizations deserve to be well funded, both because they are a major attraction for SUNY Oswego and because of how much they give back to students. Her Campus Oswego heads to SA this fall to request money from the Contingency Budget to host our events and purchase graduation cords. If you’d like to support us, please show up and talk about how much we, along with the “Big Six,” give back to this campus. Thank you.