Preparing to Lead WSN Through Journalism’s Darkest Days

Meet WSN’s new editor-in-chief for 2019.

Sakshi Venkatraman, Editor-in-Chief

Dear NYU,

This has been a depressing week in the journalism world. Within just a few days, 1,000 reporters were fired from various news organizations, including BuzzFeed and Gannett. I know this wasn’t an isolated phenomenon; these incidents are becoming increasingly common. People get laid off, entire newspapers shut down in a matter of days because they can’t muster the finances to print one more issue.

In the midst of what feels like a crisis, I’m expected to gracefully take over this newspaper and write a light-hearted column introducing myself to the NYU community. What a first week on the job — witnessing the slow decline of an industry I’m currently diving into headfirst. Watching excellent reporters search for work by summing up their qualifications in a tweet. It’s disheartening to say the least.

Hi. My name is Sakshi, and I’m WSN’s new editor-in-chief for the 2019 calendar year. Sorry to introduce myself on such a sour note, but this is all I’ve been thinking about for the last few days. Journalism is in limbo, and WSN is not exempt from this volatility. 

I realize I might come off as ungrateful for this opportunity, and I want you to know that’s not at all the case. I started out in journalism my first year of high school when my brilliant newspaper adviser told me how much of an impact I could have by writing people’s real stories. The Sidekick newspaper was my pride and joy for three years in high school, and when I was accepted to NYU’s Class of 2021, I immediately set my sights on WSN.

I’m more passionate about what we do here than I have been about anything in my life.

I started as a contributing writer, then became a deputy news editor, a news editor and a deputy managing editor. I’ve seen the paper through some excellent reporting. In my time here, we exposed the Islamophobic culture of the Stern School of Business, we analyzed why the university doesn’t respond to student suicides, we put a cam girl on the front page of our paper and we held NYU accountable for labor abuses at the Abu Dhabi campus.

I won’t deny WSN’s past shortcomings. We’re 20-something-year-old students moonlighting as beat reporters for the largest private institution in the U.S. We get things wrong sometimes, and there are certain communities we have neglected to cover in the past. It doesn’t make it OK, but we’re learning and we’re growing. Under my leadership, I want more women, people of color, first-generation students and members of the LGBTQ community to be on our staff and in our pages’ folds.

With local newspapers like Gothamist and DNAinfo gone, the scope of WSN’s reporting needs to fill the void. Like journalists at every newspaper in the country, it’s vital we continue to do our work and do it well, even as this industry falls apart around us.

I have spent many nights staring at the ceiling thinking about what would happen if all journalists faced the fate of the BuzzFeed reporters laid off last week or the Dallas Morning News reporters laid off just a few weeks ago. Would the country descend into complete chaos? Would people even care if our industry quietly faded into nothing? It’s bleak — and it may sound pretty dramatic. But it’s a possibility that I will confront every day as editor of WSN: journalism is more important than ever, but fewer and fewer people are paying attention to it.

I know I sound like a complete downer, so it might shock you to hear that, despite everything, I do have hope. I have faith in journalism because of the people that I work with — their talent, their savvy and their dedication. Because of our News Editor Victor Porcelli, who spent entire days and nights with student activists who were protesting in the Kimmel Center for Student Life last semester. Because of our magazine’s managing editor Pamela Jew, who has been with WSN for six semesters, but still works every day with a fervency like it’s her first. Because of videographer Justin Park, who spent 24 hours with a subject for our annual “Influential” issue and produced a documentary that rivals those of professional news outlets.

Every time I have walked into this office since I started as a writer, I have been in awe of all the talent and dedication packed into our little basement space. This diverse, young group of reporters who see the walls of this office more than their own homes will change journalism. I feel it; I know it.

I wish I could end this with a proposition of what we can do to save this craft I love so much, but I can’t. I can ask you, the community we strive to serve, to recognize how important objective journalism is as a check on power. Support us — even by simply taking a paper off the stands on Mondays.

— Sakshi

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, print edition. Email Sakshi Venkatraman at [email protected]

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