“Does anyone have ideas for the Marist Media Hub,” group moderator Jenna Kunze said with a weary confidence.
After a few moments, names such as Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Hilary Clinton were being verbally tossed about in the makeshift meeting room, which seemed to be better fit for a group of digital media students. Computers flanked the sides of the rooms as chairs and desks jetted out towards the middle of the classroom in a disarrayed pattern. With each new pitch, the meek tendency and rifts in contributors’ voices grew less and less audible.
As the Marist community settles back into the routine of classes, members of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) began planting ideas that will later grow to become part of the new Marist Media Hub (MMH). The MMH is a media outlet and website that will act as a home base for the plethora of different media clubs on campus and allow these organizations to remain individualistic within a shared space.
“I don’t know why this didn’t exist earlier because a lot of the media clubs are doing such good work and no one’s really reading or listening,” said SPJ president Elena Eberwein. “Your [work] shouldn’t just be for you, you should want it to be out there.”
Behind the scenes and in their free time, students are creating content that is often lost in translation to the rest of the Marist community. Students don’t know where to look for news, radio, and TV updates which in turn lowers the exposure to student-generated work. The MMH is a platform that allows students to showcase their work, as much as it allows people on campus to be immersed in what their peers are producing, writing, and photographing.
Lowell Thomas 004 was once a meek storage unit for camera equipment, in opposition to a home of creativity and innovation. The space is being transformed into a collaborative, open environment specifically for the MMH. Computers and printers will provide each club with an area to suit their mission. Cameras will no longer be stored on dusty metal shelves in a room lit by bothersome, fluorescent lights. This new space will provide a rebirth and rejuvenation for students, both personally and professionally.
Professor Rogers, a pioneer in advocating for the MMH saw it as an opportunity to “converge our media, pool our resources, and get students working in an environment that’s going to expose them to a lot of different things…and mirrors the real world.”
Currently, radio station WMAR, TV network MCTV, “The Circle” student newspaper, PRSSA, Fox Photography, Literary Arts Society, and SPJ all work independently to produce content for the student body. Each group will have a niche within the MMH, and SPJ’s specific focus will be on writing articles about politics and the up-coming election.
We have an opportunity to “do real journalism,” SPJ advisor Dr. Kevin Lerner, said to SPJ members with an inspiring seriousness. Focusing on political journalism, the MMH will be an outlet for SPJ members to “write about world news for a Marist audience,” said Lerner. An opportunity such as this is not available, on this scale, anywhere else on campus.
Rose Shannon, an SPJ member and MMH contributor said, “We want to use the Marist Media Hub to cover elections and to be the political voice on campus. We really want people to know what’s going on.”
Among classes, social life, and extra curriculars, the concept of the Marist bubble is ever present. The sense of an outside world beyond the college lifestyle seems to drift further and further away as the semester trudges onward. The physical connection to relevant areas such as politics seems to slip through fingers filled with papers and projects. The MMH seeks to close these gaps and bring Marist students closer to the action in a relatable sense.
Shannon said, “It’s one thing if a professor or your parents say you should be involved, but it’s different when it comes from your peers. We’re all in the Marist bubble, but it’s not all about the Marist bubble.”
The political sphere can be described as confusing, complex, or as Eberwein puts it, “interesting.” Outside of the family dinner table, the Marist campus may be the first place where students can broaden their understanding of the political sector.
“We can have a place where it’s not liberal media, it’s not conservative media, it’s a bit of both. It will be a language you can understand and more relatable from the same eyes as you have,” said Eberwein.
The student perspective and voice is the most promising aspect of the MMH. Students can learn about topics they are interested in, politics and beyond, from people they can relate to, but also learn from.
“We can have more educated debates and less of this just hating on people just because they identify as one thing or the next. Have a reason for believing what you believe,” said Eberwein in reference to how the MMH will benefit political exposure on campus.
Creating content is the key element that the clubs involved with the MMH are focusing on in order to make the launch of the website and center successful. With the debates revolving around the 2016 election race standing front and center on news feeds and television screens nationwide, creating accessibility to information about the presidential race is at the forefront of what SPJ hopes to accomplish.
Eberwein spoke about the widespread potential for new and innovative political content with vigor and enthusiasm. “I think it’s kind of daunting because it’s like oh my god I already have to do schoolwork, I have to write other stuff on top of this, but I’m really trying to pitch it to our club like you do this because it’s something you’re passionate about. You pick your topic and you can really go anywhere with it and it can be something that you’re really proud of and you’re doing it because you care and not because it was assigned to you. I think when you pitch it that way people are more willing to put in the work.”
In addition, SPJ’s role in the MMH offers up the opportunity to display to college students why they should care about the media, and more specifically politics.
It is so easy to be whisked away in the discussions of celebrity gossip, the newest fashion trends, or where everyone is going out on Friday night. These topics are relatable and relevant to the world many Marist students live in. Aspects of the real world such as taxes, and student loans creep around the corner that students round right after they walk across the graduation stage in black robes and caps. They seem further away than, in reality, they are.
“You’re going to be gradating soon and that means you’re going to be closer to the real world,” said Shannon. “Because you are a member of society you should know what’s going on. Being civically engaged and being smart and knowing what’s going on in the world are good qualities to have. It makes you a more worldly person.”
As Rogers describes it, the “slick” look of the MMH website, launching October 4th, provides a streamlined, user-friendly interface that is optimized for mobile use. The simplistic, yet modern layout of the website makes accessing student media work easier than ever. The Hub allows for student media, and topics such as politics to receive the kind of talk and coverage that they deserve on campus. And as Eberwein puts it, “Everyone, whether they like to admit it or not has some interest in politics.”
All Photography by Emily Houston