In university life, there are many online forms sent out by areas of the university which require you to respond to questions about your extracurricular life. Sometimes it’s to reserve room space, apply for a budget or give feedback about student experience. They ask for the expected inputs — name of activity, its description, how long you have been involved, the type of work you do there, how many hours you spend doing that work. These forms are very hard to fill out if you are a member of The Fordham Ram.
I’m unsure what counts as an hour of work on the Ram. Do hours of anxious insomnia count? How about mundane emailing? A lot of the effort that happens here isn’t quantifiable, and yet it is in some ways.
I have spent 66 very late Tuesday nights (and very early Wednesday mornings) in McGinley basement. I have been assistant news editor, news editor and now editor in chief for 22 issues apiece. I don’t know how many articles I’ve written, but it’s probably an integer between 0 and 100. The paper is usually 24 pages, although on more exciting weeks it’s 28 and quieter ones it’s 20. I’m not sure how to explain this in the forms.
Worse is describing what the Ram is. It’s a print newspaper, but it’s also a website, a business, a podcast, a video project, a historical record, a community service, a community nuisance, a club, a network and a family.
It is a thing we, as the Fordham community, do together.
When people ask me as a club leader to submit a list of club members, it’s always wrong. I submit the masthead, which you can see to the left of this article if you are reading the print edition. While I am infinitely grateful, touched, proud of and work closest with that list of people, it is not the club list of The Fordham Ram. It would have to include the copy editors, the writers, the photographers, those who tip us news, those who pose questions for us to investigate, those who comment for our coverage, the people we interview and the thousands who read it.
A newspaper is a living, breathing, constantly changing document contingent on its community. All of us do the news, I just edit it.
At times, that job has been tough. Many parts of our university still lack the transparency I would like to see. Faculty Senate meetings are not on the record. The president of our university is only available for one interview each semester and does not otherwise comment for publication. Some administrators cancel meetings continuously and fail to comment in time for publication even when given ample time. Some won’t speak at all. The same goes for some students and student groups.
In an era marked by animosity toward the press and frustration towards journalists and outlets that fail to get it all right all the time, it’s important to recall that the news is a collaborative process. That means holding reporters and organizations accountable for their mistakes, including The Fordham Ram. It also means consuming content intentionally, asking nuanced questions and adding your voice to the record when your community asks it of you.
For every tough moment, there have been so many that encouraged me. Doing the news is so much greater than producing a weekly printed paper. Working at the Ram has led me to thousands of insightful conversations, both on and off the record. I have met so many people who care deeply and I have had a front row seat to change in our community. I have helped report and edit coverage on adjunct negotiations, Spring Weekends, debates, elections, protests, clerical abuse and reforms. I have shaped coverage that could help a grieving community in a small way. I have watched the talented editors of Volume 101 grow into the capable leaders of the impending Volume 102.
It is hard to separate the joy in the work from the people you do it with. Erin Shanahan, FCRH ’16, EIC emeritus of Volume 99, is the reason I’m at The Ram. There is still no one I’d rather have in a foxhole, a newsroom or a dreary basement than former Assistant News Editor Victor Ordonez, FCRH ’18. Theresa Schliep, FCRH ’19, editor emeritus of volume 100, taught me everything I know about the news and so much more about what it means to care about your community. Managing Editor Hannah Gonzalez, FCRH ’20, made every all-nighter bearable. My parents read this newspaper every week, pushed me to do it better the following week and always provided a safe place to land in between.
The editors of Volume 101 are the most loyal, funny, hardworking group of adventurers I’ve encountered. You can teach anyone to write and edit, but you can’t teach them to care. I am so lucky to have worked with each and every one of you.
To throw out one more number, there have been 101 volumes of the Ram. Volume 101 was always destined to be something of a middle child, wedged between the jubilee of the centenarian volume and the excitement of an election year and new decade. In this building year, we have sought to lay the groundwork for the coming questions of the new decade by trying to uncover concerns that will matter going forward and shedding light on pockets of hope and effort in the community. We have started new projects and overhauled old ones, some you have hopefully seen and others you haven’t, including a few surprises that the coming volume will unveil, led by the incredibly capable, strong and caring Helen Stevenson, FCRH ’21.
This is my last article as a staff member of the Ram. My name won’t be on the masthead anymore, but I’ll still be a member. I will be reading and engaging with this news, excited to see how future volumes codify what we as a community do together.