There’s a question that, surprisingly, I get asked often.
Why do you work at The Phoenix?
Honestly, seven months ago I wouldn’t have been able to answer. I would have given a half explanation that mentions the importance of journalism and how we’re the voice of the university community without, deep down, believing it.
I have been editor-in-chief of this publication for close to a year now. I honchoed the paper for the first time for our issue last summer. I spent months dreading Facebook posts or seeing the racks around both of Loyola’s campuses. I couldn’t handle the fact that, in many ways, it’s fashionable at Loyola to hate on The Phoenix.
Why aren’t people picking up the paper? Why is that paper abandoned there? Why don’t we get people to write for the Opinion section? What am I doing wrong? I kept asking myself these questions.
Then Mutahir Rauf was killed. Then the administration made lack of transparency systematic. Then Loyola voices were ignored and I realized that, regardless of how many times we stumbled, we had the privilege, the honor and the responsibility of keeping the Loyola community informed and being its voice and advocate.
That’s the thing with journalism. Everyone loves to hate it, but it’s one of the most important professions in democratic systems. Having information to judge and make decisions is at the core of freedom. We don’t dictate what’s right and wrong, but we sure work hard to leave our readers knowing more about the world they live in, about this university.
It took a few weeks, but I realized that, regardless of the criticism, The Phoenix has the unparalleled power of reaching at least 3,500 students, faculty and staff members in print and tens of thousands online.
And this is a powerful thing, because whether many like us or not, The Phoenix is still cruising through the buildings, halls and offices of this university. We’re holding everyone accountable –– including ourselves –– with a staff that’s dedicated to excellence, to giving our readers the news that they want and, most importantly, that they need –– or at least giving their best try at it.
We’ve pushed back this year. Administrators at this university can attest to the number of emails from Phoenix reporters and editors –– including me –– that they received and many times ignored.
We’ve pushed hard because we see the dangers of a community that goes about its life in complete apathy. We see the dangers of not caring, of not knowing.
And I’m not naive. I know exactly where our value and power lie and that’s in our readers, in their willingness to challenge this institution and hold it up to standards higher than the complacency we live in. I’m not calling for a revolution, but I for sure am calling you to be masters of your life, and your life, for four years at least, is within Loyola’s walls. Seize this, and don’t let administration push you around.
In these pages, a well-known Loyola professor says he keeps copies of The Phoenix because he wants to be able to know, in 2020, what happened in 2015. Why do I work at The Phoenix? So that he has another copy to keep, so that what happens this year is not ignored.
I remember another professor who told me to study this university, to look at it and analyze, to be critical and make, as anthropologists say, “the familiar strange and the strange familiar.” Why do I work at The Phoenix? To at least strive to spread that way of thinking, of being critical and analytical of what we see here. And there’s so much to be critical of at this university.
All I can say is that college media matters now more than ever. The Phoenix, beyond its staff members, editorial line and content, matters because of its independence. We try to be the watchdogs as much as possible. We do not relent.
Last week, a famed Chicago city hall reporter celebrated 30 years in the industry and several of her colleagues shared anecdotes of their interactions with her. One of them remembered an interview in which she had said “I’m not here to be wiped. I’m here to be treated with respect and be fair, fast and accurate.”
This is my last issue as editor-in-chief of this paper. I’ve made decisions I’m proud of and others I wish I didn’t have to make. I’ve carried papers, made phone calls and pushed back. I have the privilege to say that, this year, the not-nearly-enough times I’ve gone to bed, I’ve slept well. We’ve made the corrections we had to make; we’ve been receptive. I’ve slept well.
I’ve seen this paper excel and tumble, but most of all, I’ve seen it rise. I have the privilege to say, as editor-in-chief of this paper, that this publication is not wiped. That we’re here to be treated with respect and to be fair, fast and accurate.
Esther Castillejo is the 2014-2015 editor-in-chief of The Loyola Phoenix.