Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 20, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY


Guest Commentary: Editor reflects on importance of critical eye in media

A couple weeks ago, my not-so-trusty Oldsmobile was towed. I really don’t want the thing back. My orchid is dying from neglect on my windowsill, and I’ve barely sent out any resumes. I’m not sure what I’m doing next week, and I’m certainly unsure what I’m doing with the rest of my life.

If you had asked me at the beginning of high school about my future, my answer might have varied but would have always fallen into a category of science: forensic pathology, public health or maybe marine biology.

Senior Kelsey O’Connor, the outgoing editor in chief of The Ithacan,discusses the importance of active readership for more involved communities.
Courtesy of Kelsey O’Connor

But during my junior year of high school, my world shifted. I ventured to Amravati, India, as part of Rotary International’s exchange program. After three flights, some long layovers and a four-hour car journey, I was suddenly surrounded by a wonderful family that opened my eyes to a new world. They enrolled me in a science college, where I studied biology, chemistry, physics, math and Hindi.
I realized quickly that it wasn’t science I was interested in, but the people, the traditions, the culture and the stories outside the classroom. My year in India flooded my senses and emotions. Documenting my travels, I realized much of my journalling turned into telling the stories of the people I met. I shared a train compartment with cricket players from Kashmir, practiced my Hindi with children who lived on trains and met too many French hippies in Goa. Alongside that, I saw disease, blood, riots and abuse. It was in India that I began to obsessively read the news, something I’d barely done in the U.S. It was as if the world suddenly opened up and I needed to know everything, everywhere. However, I realized what I was reading didn’t always match what I was seeing. This was the beginning of my critical career.

Being editor in chief of The Ithacan was never on my agenda, but it has become the most defining and challenging experience I’ve had yet. Studying to be a journalist here has allowed me to better refine the worldview I gained in India. What I’ve learned here and there is to notice the nuances, the slips and the hypocrisies. That is what I hope to make a career of. Don’t tell me print is dying, I don’t care. There will always be a need in every corner of the world for thorough reporting. But along with the need for diligent writers, there is a greater need for careful, intelligent readers because they are the ones who can turn information into action.

As an editor, I hope that some of my values and viewpoints carried through in keeping our audience informed amid rapid shifts at Ithaca College. This year, I worked with an incredibly talented and creative group at The Ithacan who I know will go on to do even better things next year. As I conclude my Ithaca College career, and get rid of my crappy car, I have no dream job or location in mind, but I do hope that I can find myself in another dedicated community.