Opinion: The best publication on campus

Kate Marinkovich, Author

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To the entire Palo Alto High School journalism program and its audiences:

Over our long history, we have reached incredible heights. From the Campanile’s consistently spectacular efforts in print news coverage, to inFocus’s feats in broadcast media, to Verde’s ability to wow it readers with controversial content, to Viking’s in-depth sports coverage and features and to the Voice’s excellence in publishing wide ranges of Paly news: we have earned a tradition of excellence, and we have earned it together.

But with this tradition of excellence comes a competitive nature, one that works both to our advantage and against it.

In many ways, this competition is what makes each of us a leader in our respective categories. Our intra-campus rivalry pushes us to perform at our best, and this hard work has consistently paid off as publications take home regional, state and national awards each year.

This competition has fostered a passion for journalism on campus. The Paly journalism program is composed of six major publications (The Campanile, inFocus, Madrono, Verde, Viking and The Paly Voice) and within the last few years, new publications have formed, allowing for further participation and broadening the content of the program. Agora, Paly’s foreign affairs magazine, and C-Magazine, The Campanile’s arts and entertainment spinoff, have both hit the ground running within the last few years and continue to inform, impress and entertain their readers. This is a system to be proud of, and it exists thanks to the passion fostered by competition.

However, there is a clear downside to this competition: As each of us pushes ourselves to become the “the best publication on campus,” we tend to display an absence of respect toward our sister publications. Whether this tendency is subconscious or not, the friendly competition that is natural and necessary between publications has grown out of proportion. It is becoming a source of tension for all parties that has surpassed its healthy level.

When a publication comes out with a new issue or article, it is often met with great criticism from its rival staffs. Constructive criticism is encouraged – we rely on each other to keep ourselves factual and informative, and to motivate ourselves to continue pushing the envelope – however, oftentimes the criticism is petty and unwarranted. It is based in our desire to inflate our own egos, or out of the fear that our sister publications are “taking over our territory,” either in topic or audience.

Each of us leading publications is guilty of this aforementioned practice, but we’re all wrong. We’re not opponents; we’re teammates. As Aristotle once said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

While so far I have been speaking to the actions of others, I want to take a moment to speak to my own. I have been guilty in this practice time and time again, and my inspiration for this piece came almost entirely from recognizing my guilt. But I want to change, and I want to encourage all of you to change.

According to Education Week, the Paly journalism program is “the nation’s biggest and best.” And Education Week is right: we are a nationally acclaimed program, and that is entirely the result of all five (and counting) publications working together to create an excellent finished product.

By discouraging the successes of other publications, we take away from our collective power to impress. Each publication on campus is a direct product of a talented group of individuals who are committed to reporting responsibly and producing high quality work. We each have the same goals, just applied to different products.

So, in an effort to keep the competition friendly, I encourage all publications to support each other. We must take pride in the accomplishments of one another, and use that pride to lead the school, the state, the country by example. We are inspiring each other to continue contributing to the whole, so that it can continue its tradition of excellence.

And a note to the audiences of these publications: Think before you speak or act. Remember that as you toss that Verde magazine onto the ground (or Viking, or Campanile, or C Magazine), you are tossing countless hours of hard work by a number of talented individuals. And when you brutally review an article written by the Voice (or any publication), you are doing the same. Think about how if that were your work, would that be how you want your peers to receive it? Probably not. I know I am not speaking for myself when I say that with each article we publish we are doing it for the welfare of the student body. Appreciate your publications, because they do it all for you.

We must keep using each other’s accomplishments to fuel our desires to create masterpieces, but we must also be humble enough to recognize greatness in others. Because there is no “best publication on campus,” only a best journalism program.