Empty Complaints Don’t Fix Anything

by Grace Chambers

Let me let you in on a little secret: working for the Rambler can sometimes feel like a thankless task. Here is an example:

I was sitting in class one Thursday after delivering the latest issue of the Rambler. Three of my peers started discussing the new issue, so I eavesdropped, of course. In my defense, one of the discussants was standing about a foot to my right, so I would have either had to leave the room or plug my ears and start humming loudly to avoid hearing them say that the Rambler “is a joke” and “looks like a high school newspaper.”

Awkward! And this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and I’m not the only person on staff it happens to, but usually I choose not to speak up. Usually, I just choose to be content that people are reading the paper, even if they don’t like what they read.

But the Rambler should be asking more from its community than that (and vice versa). Specifically, we want constructive criticism, which involves the identification of specific problems, as well as the suggestion of possible solutions to those problems. This can take the form of sending in a letter to the editor, submitting a story idea or talking to a Rambler staffer. And if you are a student, the most effective way to help us improve is to contribute original content, such as a story, photograph or cartoon.

If our readers choose to complain about our content without offering suggestions for how to improve it, they’ll get exactly what they ask for: nothing. We want to improve the service we provide for this community, but we simply cannot do it without your help.

Please keep in mind that there is no other organization like the Rambler on this campus. Every week, we publish pages of original content, including stories spanning from breaking news and in-depth human interest to opinion and reviews, photography and various graphic elements. If you’d like to see for yourself the amount of time and energy that goes into merely laying out the paper (not including the work it takes to get to that point), I invite any member of the Transylvania community to spend a production night with us; we can be found in the Student Publications Office every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to around 12 a.m.

And what kind of incentive would a student have to spend his or her precious free time working on the Rambler? A purely intellectual one, that’s what, because we are not compensated for our time (most campus newspaper staffs are compensated).

I would also like to point out that if one is interested in other creative pursuits, such as writing, directing or performing in a play or creating an art exhibit or musical score, and one has the intention of displaying that creation for the whole community to see, there are a wealth of courses offered by our drama, theatre and fine arts programs that provide a safe, supportive environment for creative growth.

But there is no journalism program at Transy (there is only an introductory level journalism course taught once a year). We must learn by doing – by putting our work out there for the entire community to read and evaluate.

The Rambler is not a separate entity on this campus. Our staffers are real, live students at Transy who produce a weekly paper while taking full course loads. For example, I am editor of the Rambler and a senior English major taking 4.25 credits this term, and I also have a part-time job at a law firm. I don’t know how they do it, but our staffers also find time to get involved in additional extracurricular activities, sports and Greek life on top of everything else.

In light of this, what the Rambler really needs is a supportive community that communicates as often with us as we do with them.


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