Last week, Science and Technology editor Hanadie Yousef received an e-mail that read, “The article in The Tartan is just great! I really appreciate your letting the student body know about the fun things going on in chemistry.” With every issue we get feedback from readers. A lot is positive, like the message above, but inevitably some is critical.
Hanadie also received an angry e-mail complaining about inaccuracies in another article. Every editor at The Tartan takes his or her responsibility very seriously, and we spend a lot of time thinking about how to do more for our readers.
Thinking about the innumerable comments and suggestions that we’ve gotten in the past year has spurred me to think about our mission. For years, the leadership of The Tartan worked as though our responsibility started and ended with publishing the newspaper. In reality, we want to help our community be a better place.
The Tartan has always reported the news, offered a forum for public debate, and covered the arts and entertainment scene in Pittsburgh. But if we do just that, we haven’t necessarily accomplished our goal of improving our community — it takes a lot more than just putting pen to paper.
In the past few months, members of The Tartan’s staff and I have been thinking more broadly about what we need to do to succeed in our mission. What we came to realize is that we needed to be more practical in our approach to development. Now, as we go about our work, we try to find ways to make The Tartan more useful.
We’re developing new ways to leverage the flexibility of the Internet to offer better services for students — we’ve got some great concepts for our website that we hope to move on this year. We’re going reduce our dependence on the student activities fee by working on our sales and keeping our budget tight — we plan to ask for a smaller subsidy from student government next year, so other, newer organizations can have a greater share of the pie. Also, we’re working to enhance our presence in the
community; this part we’re beginning now.
Last Thursday, the undergraduate Student Senate approved a special allocation for the purchase of the first set of outdoor newspaper boxes that we are going to locate on and off campus and a set of indoor newspaper stands to place in coffee shops and restaurants in the neighboring communities. Within a year, we’re aiming to have outdoor newspaper boxes in Oakland, Squirrel Hill, and Shadyside, and indoor racks at establishments in all those areas. We hope this will help put The Tartan in new, convenient locations for students and expose the community we live in to the happenings of Carnegie Mellon.
Also within the next year, we plan to place new newspaper racks at all of our on-campus drop points, so our newspapers are off the ground, orderly, and more visible.
Most immediately, we’ll be distributing copies of The Tartan by hand every Monday. More than 150 people dedicate hours of their time to creating each issue of The Tartan — that’s about one out of every 35 undergraduates. Most undergraduates probably have class with at least one member of The Tartan’s staff, but they don’t know it.
We’re proud of our work, and we’re eager to be more available and responsive to our readership. We hope that putting faces with the newspaper will help make us a more open organization. We started this new practice last week. I must say that personally giving a newspaper to someone who was eager to have it felt great.
In our busy CMU culture, it’s easy to get stuck in the daily grind, waiting for feedback. Our hope is to become closer to more of the community, so by the time we get a suggestion, we’re already working on the implementation.