Susan Behrends Valenzuela
A few weeks ago, I lost my notebook. It was a wire bound notebook from Muji that I wrote in almost every day. Powered by thoughts, drawings and bad jokes, the notebook became an organism that breathed life out of its gills. When I realized it was gone, I trekked across Manhattan revisiting all the places I might have left it. After checking every corner of my shoebox apartment and turning up empty handed, I began to experience all five stages of grief.
Defeated, I sought out knowledge on regeneration. I learned that certain species of starfish can regrow legs that were gnawed off by predators. Some lizards shed their tails as a distraction when they feel threatened. I bought a new notebook. As I write in it, the topic of regeneration sticks in my mind. From cave art to op-eds, the nature of storytelling is always in flux. When new forms of media usurp old ones, there is always the pang of loss and eventual rebirth.
Washington Square News is a publication that knows regeneration. Through a pandemic, budget cuts and a resignation, the paper has been through a lot of reshuffling, remodeling and restarting. It has been scrutinized and loved fiercely not only by NYU students but the larger Greenwich and East Village communities. Our staff and alumni devoted countless hours to get us back on our feet because we believed it was worth it.
Now, we are left with a clean slate. With this start, we aim to be louder and bolder than ever before. We will not shy away from investigating topics that are taboo or difficult to cover. We write. Not because we want acknowledgement. But because writing is a force that exposes corruption, explores how we relate to one another and binds us together. Because it is something we know how to do, and we want to do it well.
Our team of undergraduates serve NYU students with rigor and dedication. Last semester, we were on the frontlines nearly every day covering the graduate student strike. I’ve seen firsthand the impact that WSN can have. After I wrote an opinion piece on the six Asian women who were killed in my hometown, Atlanta, the Asian community breathed light into my piece, using it to mourn and hope together.
With the idea of connection in mind, we begin to rebuild. We globalize our publication and expand our abroad section, where students at study away sites can contribute their unique perspectives. A new column “The Soapbox” by Suhail Gharaibeh explores trends in international news written with concise wit. On culture, Sabrina Choudhary spearheads a new mini-desk that tells illuminating stories about intersectional identity. As our in-person newsroom reopens, we pledge to delve deeper into issues that are important to an ever-evolving student body.
As journalism adapts, we must adapt with it. However, the path to innovative reporting is uncertain. Large journalistic organizations are shifting away from print and instituting paywalls to keep their papers running. Local newspapers are absorbed by conglomerates or sentenced to death by a thousand budget cuts. Journalism is an industry on the brink of becoming extinct; the consequences of which would uproot the foundations of democracy.
Washington Square News educates the journalists of the future, but we are not immune to the threats that face newsrooms across the country. We are in imminent danger of losing our print issues for good. Our hardworking staff members churn out hours and hours of exemplary work every day for little to no compensation.
These financial shortfalls set a hazardous precedent. One of the biggest critiques of modern journalism is a lack of diversity in newsrooms. However, if the publication becomes a place where students facing financial pressures are unable to work without sacrificing their livelihoods, our diversity takes a massive hit. An investment in WSN is an investment in a future where unsung voices are amplified and empowered to tell their own stories.
Maintaining this legacy is an uphill battle. But it’s one that I will choose again and again to fight. For those of us who work multiple jobs to continue on at WSN, because they believe in the transformative power of words and free-flowing information. For our management, our board, our writers, photographers and copy editors who create and shape our paper with love and care and pour it forth into the hands of our readers.
Regeneration is never easy. As I fill the pages of this notebook, the aforementioned dilemmas weigh heavy on me. Despite the pressures and risks, I took the position of Editor-in-Chief because I believe that passion is a driving force that begets inspiration. There is so much good work to do and we will continue to do it with spirit, humility and conscience. However, all of it is impossible without your support. With our community and readers rallying behind us, we can emerge from these challenges fully-formed and even stronger.
Contact Ashley Wu at [email protected]