Sebi Sola-Sole ’21 and Julia Knoerr ’21
We took the reins of The Davidsonian the Monday following spring break, slated to publish our first print issue on March 18th. On Thursday, March 12th at 3:30pm, an email from President Quillent halted our plans, instructing us all to leave campus out of concern for COVID-19. To pack up, say goodbye, and resettle elsewhere as soon as we could. We tried to strategize in the moment but instead soon joined the leagues of students trying to process our last days at school. The Davidsonian, at that point, was without bearing. So we took a couple days off. Julia flew back to Pasadena and Sebi to D.C. And we both took a deep breath.
The following Tuesday, we reconvened and started to strategize again. In the process, we realized a unique opportunity lay before us: the community we serve had changed so radically that we could no longer rely simply on our typical news format to encompass our campus’s experiences. We had no routine to piece back together nor precedent to return, so we began to entirely reimagine the paper’s role for the Davidson community.
That begged the questions: what is our responsibility in recording this momentous global event?
How can we shape Davidson’s collective memory of a period characterized by such distinctive individual situations? How might our digital platform bring together isolated individuals by working to establish a representative archive?
First, campus journalism plays a key role in unifying students, faculty, and staff by providing easy access to information. Over the last two weeks, many questions about the future have circulated while waiting for official messages from both the College and government leaders. We hope to offer a resource within that uncertainty and a point of reference for reliable facts.
We also see The Davidsonian as a platform for community building, communication, and collaboration. Due to the necessity of social distancing, newspapers across the country have had to adapt their reporting strategies to digital platforms and virtual interviews. In particular, publications are launching collaborative projects. The North Carolina News Collaborative (20 newspapers from across the state) is working on a statewide reporting initiative on COVID-19, and the New Jersey News Commons and College News Commons are sharing stories together through the platform Nordot. From databases and terminology guides to discussion groups and online journalism conferences, organizations are working together remotely to cover an unprecedented global crisis.
As a smaller newspaper with fewer resources, our role is slightly different than that of national publications. Our beat is local. It’s based in a tightly-knit community that is now scattered across the world. So we hope to be one of the threads to keep it together amidst the chaos.
We can showcase student artwork from self-isolation, air perspectives and opinions in a variety of mediums, and publish photostories to capture the emotional toll of a semester cut startlingly short. We can speak with newly admitted students on social media, hear from generations of alumni, and project critical guidance from administrators. COVID-19 shattered campus life, but we think we can preserve some of the pieces.
Looking beyond this moment, we hold great responsibility for documenting such a significant point in the College’s history. Hopefully, our new COVID-19 page and the additional content we continue to produce can stand as an archive upon which to reflect in the future. Which narratives will we remember a decade from now? How will the next generation of students understand the experiences of college students during this year’s COVID-19 outbreak? What long-term repercussions will current students face when they graduate and attempt to begin normal lives? We feel it our task to include as many of the affected voices and faces in that archive as possible–and from that point, we make a plea to everyone reading:
Consider contributing. Our purpose is by no means limited to news reporting. Accessibility is crucial, and we invite any Davidson community member to contribute reflections, perspectives, views, and reports in order to collectively process and organize the coming months apart. If you have an angle or story you would like to see covered, a creative strategy idea, or a perspective/comment to submit, please do not hesitate to reach out. The Davidsonian is here for you.
Even though we’re dispersed, we share the experience of uncertainty and need for adjustment to the circumstances at hand. We are capable of coming together and maintaining our community amidst unpredictable times.
Stay home and wash your hands!
Sebi and Julia