The Things We Forget (And Why It Matters)
Despite there being nothing new to report about rats running around campus, eventually this newspaper will run another story detailing how there are, in fact, rats on campus.
We gave rats the “thumbs down” in 2004.
We ran a story in 2005 with this juicy bit:
“Occasionally, I’ll see some rats run across the paths on the Quad.”
And again in 2008, we ran a story with this slightly more colorful quote:
“I was drawing near Ward, and I heard a rustling behind me, and I thought ‘oh it’s just a squirrel’ so I kept drawing, and then a rat burst out and ran right between my legs.”
Our addiction to rat stories points to a deeper conundrum The Eagle and other student organizations face: an endemic and unfixable lack of institutional memory.
Every year, The Eagle staff is different than the last. Old, grizzled 20-year-old “vets” call it a career and head off to the sunny beaches of South America for a semester abroad. Other vets graduate. Others call it quits after one too many all-nighters.
The Eagle is playing an 85-year-long game of telephone where a departing editor whispers some advice into the ear of a petrified replacement. And things go wrong.
There are few written documents. The ones that exist are hilariously outdated (Ex. “Remember to check your e-mail once a day”). Even some advice last year’s editor had for me is outdated. We’re a completely different group of people. We publish on a different schedule. We cover different things.
This leads to difficulties. Do we capitalize the names of Metro lines? (For the record, no, we don’t and no, it doesn’t make any sense). How do I request money from Student Activities? (Answer: beg on my knees) Or, more seriously, should we print this column?
I learned a serious lesson last year about what we should and should not print. I learned what needs more editing, what issues need more sensitivity. It’s a lesson I — and most of Eagle staff — will never forget. We are better and smarter people for it. But 15 years from now, when print is dead and the new School of Communication building is nearly completed, my successor will not remember nor care about decisions made while he or she was in sixth grade.
And what will happen? Things will go wrong.
So do we print another story on rats? Do I send yet another cub reporter to excitedly ask an AU staff member what the the University is doing to combat the rat infestation?
I don’t know. What do you think?
Posted in Hail to the Chief