On the Record: Diving into The Eagle’s reporting priorities

New year, same commitment to bringing you the news

On the Record: Diving into The Eagle’s reporting priorities

Although The Eagle’s staff is gathering virtually for now, there is always a certain buzz that accompanies the first news pitch meeting of every semester. New staffers are excited to learn the ins and outs of The Eagle, and returning staffers are eager to get back to work and tackle new stories and projects. In this edition of On the Record, I’d like to give readers a better understanding of how the news section operates and what we hope to accomplish this semester. 

There are five sections that make up The Eagle’s news section, structured around some of the University’s most important topics. The Administration and Local News, Campus Life, Community Engagement, Features and Investigations sections are organized to best support our reporters as they tackle critical issues that affect the American University community. Each of these sections has a focus on a specific area of newsworthy items at AU, which allows for our staff to report on various topics across the sections throughout the semester. We also have several beat reporters, who each focus on specific topics such as the coronavirus, Local News, Student Government and Culture. Additionally, we launched our investigations team last semester, which allows reporters to focus on a small number of long-term yet far-reaching and powerful stories. 

For my first column of the new year and semester, I asked each of The Eagle’s news editors two questions: 

What’s the top priority in your section for this semester? What story or topic area are you most excited to report on this semester?

Following this column’s intention to make The Eagle more transparent, I gathered their responses, which are featured below. Some have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

Jordan Young, Community Engagement Editor (jyoung@theeagleonline.com

To learn more about the role of the Community Engagement editor, read more here. 

My top priority for Community Engagement this semester is to form relationships with affinity and cultural organizations. Maintaining relationships with the leaders and members of these groups is not only important in terms of making sure our coverage reflects the student body, but also in terms of keeping, and in some cases gaining back, the trust of our readers.

The topic area I am most excited to cover this semester is the disability and access needs of the AU community. AU has a significant disabled population, and with COVID-19 these numbers will only grow. The coronavirus has also exacerbated the issues that disabled students and staff face on campus, making this an especially important topic area to cover at this time.

Skye Witley, Administration and Local News Editor (switley@theeagleonline.com

The first story I wrote for The Eagle was for Administration and Local News and I’ve been in love with the section ever since. Previous ALN editors taught me a lot about The Eagle newsroom, so my top priority this spring is to promote a learning environment that allows reporters to build on the skills they’re learning in the classroom. I plan to emphasize local news coverage in particular by sending reporters out into the field where they can learn on their feet. 

Like many large organizations, there are many areas the American University administration could improve upon. However, AU is also tackling a lot of issues correctly. I’m excited to emphasize this duality by serving up both accountability and solutions journalism stories focused on the administration. Solutions journalism centers on responses to societal, or in this case University, problems and serves to balance the bad-news bias in journalism that can sometimes overemphasize the negative aspects of a situation.

Kate Corliss, Campus Life Editor (kcorliss@theeagleonline.com

Campus life encompasses such a broad range of the AU experience and its role in all our lives has been so vastly transformed by the pandemic. I’m striving for all of the work in this section to be reported in a timely, digestible way that offers readers important information about concrete changes to policies, campus operations and more as they happen and how all parts of our community are being affected.

Obviously, the pandemic has touched every element of campus life and this section has to be keenly aware of exactly what updates are unfolding, as well as who is feeling them the most acutely. As we continue to navigate our in-person return, I’m interested in how AU handles growing activism about health and safety from the disabled community on campus. I’m also interested in looking into Greek life recruitment since the abolition movement garnered more traction during summer 2020.

Fariha Rahman, Features Editor (frahman@theeagleonline.com

My top priority is to forge connections with new and old campus organizations to get a better understanding on how best to represent our work to the whole student body. Over the last two years, our student body has changed while we were online, and now that we are back in person I definitely want to reacquaint myself, and The Eagle’s coverage, with any pockets of students we may have missed.

I’m most excited to report on how another semester impacted by COVID-19 affects campus involvement in terms of events and how this shift in students' priorities impacts campus culture. A great example of this is the annual Founders Day Ball. Historically, there has been a high student demand to reallocate the funding elsewhere, but we now have two grades of students who had their high school experience impacted by COVID-19, and their priorities of what they want their campus culture to look like definitely differ from their older peers.

Dan Papscun, Investigations Editor (dpapscun@theeagleonline.com

Our top priority in Investigations this semester is to solidify our place among the wider Eagle staff by continuing to coordinate and support projects in other sections while perfecting our own FOIA, data and source-development skills. I'm excited at the opportunity to use data to report on a variety of University happenings, especially those related to mistreatment and inequality.

nheller@theeagleonline.com 

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