Letter from The Clocktower's Sponsor

Jonathan Deemer, Tyler Dean and Cameron Cizek all have one thing in common with each other—The Clocktower. While each wrote about disparate subjects (politics, sports and art) they did so for Union College’s semi-weekly student newspaper, under the leadership of this year’s Editor-in-Chief Emily Wood. Together with other writers, photographers, section editors and designers, they worked hard to both entertain and inform readers of issues on campus and beyond.   

The Clocktower began printing in 1927. In another decade it will celebrate a hundred years of publishing. This will indeed be a celebration. A number of high schools and college campuses are closing their student newspapers due to rising print costs, lost readership and/or conflicts between student newspaper staff and institutional leadership. These closures come at a great cost to society, a price that will be extracted over time by the way we communicate and conduct ourselves as a democracy.

Newspapers have long held an important role in the democratic process of the U.S. James Franklin, Ben Franklin’s older brother, launched The New England Courant in 1721. Newspapers of that time were sponsored by political parties and were used to reach their loyal partisans—not so different from Twitter monocultures of today.

The power of the media became evident by the mid nineteen-hundreds. Television, radio, along with print newspapers and news magazines, became the primary sources by which the public learned of key information about the world, nation and community. The media sways public opinion.

We need leaders who understand the power and responsibility of communication, people who are able to gather facts quickly and accurately, evaluate the quality of information and the share with others what they come to understand. They must know how to use new technologies like Twitter and Facebook. We need individuals who are willing, and able, to grapple with the growing complex political and social issues we face today with clarity and integrity. There should not be a time when fake news is news.

Education through formal classroom training and on the job experiences, like writing for The Clocktower, is one of the best ways to ensure the next generation of leaders are ready.

College offers a safe place to practice. It’s a place to learn how to be inclusive, yet unique. It’s a place to try out ideas and language that unite people toward a common goal. It’s also a time to experiment with the best ways to provide necessary feedback for both correction and healing. As Union College professor Chris Blake says, “Communication is life.”

This concludes my second year as faculty sponsor for The Clocktower, Union College’s student newspaper, and to quote myself, “I have enjoyed working with the students on The Clocktower and I look forward to seeing what the newspaper team does next year.”

Pat Maxwell is an associate professor of communication.