Why We Write
Campus journalism for all those idealists
“We do not need a truth to serve us, we need a truth that we can serve.”
Somewhat dramatically, the words of the Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain, begin my last editorial as Editor-in-Chief. Approaching the end of a leadership position, book, or project always seems to inspire people to reflect on their work and draw meaningful lessons from the endeavor. Not surprisingly, I find the same thing happening to me. Maritain’s words capture the spirit of the Rover, and strongly apply to Notre Dame’s saga of decisions regarding the health insurance plan.
This past year, the editing team has met in the Center for Ethics & Culture’s Jacques Maritain library for editing nights and production nights—our first time in the library we joking chose the bust of Maritain on the shelves as our “newspaper mascot.” In light of this, I stumbled upon Maritain’s words quoted above and smiled at how fitting they were for the Rover.
Some may critique our newspaper for its idealism and goal of upholding the Catholic identity of Notre Dame. “Aren’t you just a student newspaper, not even funded by the university?” they say, and they’d be right. Except I happen to believe that idealism is what maintains the spirit of the Rover.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an ideal is “a standard or principle to be aimed at.” Someone who is an idealist upholds that standard or principle (sometimes over the practical). Ideal is a late Middle English term that comes from the Latin word idealis (idea). The Rover should be “idealist” in a sense because our writers aim to keep Notre Dame true to its Catholic identity. This standard, however, is not unattainable as are some ideals.
I’ll admit, sometimes the lack of recognition the Rover receives can lead me to think our aims are unattainable and too idealistic. Everyone at least knows what the Observer is, but not everyone knows about the Rover. This truth can be hard especially after long nights slaving over articles and trying to achieve the best layout. But then I remember that our aims are very different from the Observer for a reason; the Rover started because of an idea, a goal: to keep Notre Dame accountable to its Catholic identity and provide a more conservative voice on campus.
Here at the Rover, we don’t cover everything that happens on this campus because that is not our aim. We are the “watchdog” that calls attention to the actions of the university and that taps into student perspectives on a variety of issues. As a Catholic newspaper, we serve the truth of Christ and, as Jacques Maritain says, we do not alter that truth to serve us.
When Father Jenkins and the administration released the decision to provide contraceptives in the university health insurance plan, the Rover published many articles voicing discontent from parts of the university. Students wrote opinion pieces, staff members wrote editorials, faculty advisors lent their voices. At one point, I questioned the impact our articles would have on the administration. One of the editors replied that if I didn’t think one student’s article could have an impact in some way—then why even publish this paper at all? In a sense, they were right. Of course we might not see the direct impact or change our paper might produce, but goodness always produces ripple effects. It starts small and turns into big waves. In other words, just by writing and editing these articles we have started conversations among our editorial staff and writers. They then tell their friends. Professors and alumni that read the paper hopefully also start their own discussions.
That being said, expanding the readership of the Rover remains a goal of the staff and I believe we have made strides. I’ve met many times with the other editors to discuss our goals for the year (there are so many “Rover Goals 2017-18” lists!). While some things were accomplished—an updated layout for one—others had to be postponed. We still don’t have an office but work in the CEC library and Hesburgh like newspaper nomads (we all love the library though).
Instead of listing what we don’t have, I want to emphasize what we do. This entire year I’ve been struck by how much fun we’ve had during production nights. When you spend hours editing articles, listening to obscure music, eating pizza, and generally trying to make sure the paper is actually published—well, you get to know your fellow editors. I love the random conversations that spring up during those nights and sometimes I laugh so hard its difficult to read let alone edit anything. To an outsider it may seem like we are very inefficient. And maybe we are. But that slight chaos brings the editors together and we all pull through to make this newspaper happen.
As a whole, the staff community has grown stronger. This year we are starting the tradition of celebrating the end of the year with an awards dinner. I want our editors and writers to know that we do appreciate their hard work and truly care about them. The awards dinner will be a way to congratulate them on their work and for everyone to enjoy each other’s company at the end of great year.
Every issue has its ups and downs, but I want to thank the “unsung heroes” of the Rover, namely the layout managers, for persevering late into the night to lay out the paper. This year I wanted more editors to come to production night to understand the collaborative process of publishing the paper. Those production nights were way more fun when the other editors came. Even though this is my last editorial as Editor-in-Chief, because of the Rover’s admirable mission and great times with the staff, I will continue editing and helping in whatever capacity I’m needed. I’m certain next year’s editorial staff will do wonders with the Rover.
The idealism of the Rover testifies to the commitment of our editors and writers. All of us, I hope, will continue to write and give a voice to the students of Notre Dame, no matter who reads our paper. After all, we have Jacques Maritain as our mascot and Our Lady interceding for us.
Sarah Ortiz is a junior studying in the Program of Liberal Studies and classics and living in Lewis Hall. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.