Commentator Blueprint for ’18-’19
From beginning to end, journalism’s raison d'être is truth. Journalism fosters accountability, calling attention to falsehoods and ethical lapses. Journalism demands consistency, where adherents to the will of God push back against the pressures of skepticism in a postmodern world. Journalism provides empowerment, granting the masses a voice that can be heard and recognized by the powerful.
This is where The Commentator plays an active role. As a well-established and respected platform, this newspaper owes all Yeshiva University undergraduate students the page space to have their voices heard, and to make an impact. We are in a good place with a talented, diverse group of editors and writers, mindful and capable of achieving this higher purpose.
This year I had the privilege to immerse myself in the endlessly fascinating Gottesman Library collection of Commentator archives. Thousands of pages document 83 years of devoted students reporting on YU happenings. This year alone, publishing over 100 well-written, well-evidenced news stories, and over 350 articles in total, we did justice in carrying the colossal ark that is this newspaper’s responsibility, successfully bringing The Commentator to one of the best places it has ever been. The publication’s quality is as important as its quantity, and, to our credit, we have regularly received praise this year from students, faculty, and outsiders about our professional, dedicated, impressive pursuit of truth. My recent and more distant predecessors have overseen this newspaper fantastically, and even just matching the quality of their outputs would, in my eyes, mean success of my impact as editor-in-chief.
My testifying to The Commentator’s historical commitment to truth is one thing; providing public access to our archives is another. I believe that this newspaper should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this year is out, of digitizing its archives and making them available to the public. I have begun the process of brainstorming with our amazing librarians how to make this a reality. No single journalism innovation in this period will be more significant to us, or more important for the long-term possibilities of The Commentator. The archives represent an historical perspective on the university, providing a window into YU’s history for students, alumni, and the broader Jewish and academic communities.
While The Commentator takes pride in its impressive history, it is a living organism very much entrenched in the present. We stepped up to modern expectations this year with consistently quick reporting. We will continue such service to our online readers in the next academic year, and we will print on a more frequent basis than we have in the past, for the benefit of our readers present on the Wilf and Beren campuses.
The Commentator’s new “Top Comments” podcast as well is a testament to our modern awareness. The podcast taps into a new medium for providing news and creative discussion to the public. We have only scratched the surface with this nascent, promising addition to the newspaper. The untold potential will continue to develop, next year and in years to come.
As this newspaper has shown, calling attention to truth does not include only information explicitly or obviously available to the watchful observer. Careful documentation is important, to be sure, and our News section aptly holds the fort on reporting all university news. But we delve deeper too, reading between the lines and beneath the overt. Along with their many important responsibilities, the News and Features sections publish on a regular basis: serious investigative pieces on academic, social, and intellectual trends; close scrutiny of administrative practices and policies; creative stories by and about YU students; and spotlight pieces interviewing influential YU figures. We succeeded in these ventures this past year, and we aim for even better and more comprehensive success next year.
The Commentator’s Opinions section has hosted incredibly thought-provoking and impactful articles. Minimally, they cause readers to reflect; sometimes, they lead to intense, but respectful and articulate, back and forth dialogue; and on occasion, as we saw this spring semester with the Klein @9 articles, they spark communal discussions about Yeshiva University’s ideology and its future. The newspaper has done well in publishing interesting opinions, from across varying spectra, and this will only continue.
Our Business section has flourished since its founding only a few years ago. It has served as a platform for writers to inform and educate fellow students on important developments in the economy. Students publish articles that showcase technological and geopolitical innovations in business. Next year, we will inaugurate a column called “The Monthly Meeting,” in which strong writers will interview executives and notable figures in various industries, providing readers with exclusive portraits of some of today’s leaders.
Another small addition next year will be the presence of several student columns, which I intend to offer to a handful of our most talented writers. They will have the opportunity to consistently write, with their own tone and theme, on a unique topic of interest. These columns may include anything from culture reviews to ideological musings to satire, though the fine details, depending on student interest, remain to be determined.
I marvel in awe at the impact that this newspaper has had. To this day, articles in The Commentator, even when they cause only minor ripples and boast only modest readership, are perceived by the broader YU community as indicators of student sentiment on campus. We take this phenomenon very seriously. We owe our readers an open window into YU. We are responsible to actively promote news articles about positive developments, and praiseful op-eds, when we notice success. This same sense of responsibility drives us to criticize, carefully but vigorously, when we see that it is necessary.
Twenty-five years ago, this newspaper ignited a riot that saved the Bernard Revel Graduate School from closing. This newspaper has hosted heated debates between college faculty and roshei yeshiva—on multiple occasions. This newspaper has consistently kept close tabs on YU practices and policies, and has had writers and editors become prominent thinkers and leaders in post-college capacities.
Before Volume 84 begins to fill the shelves, the current academic year must come to a close. The Commentator owes itself a well-deserved summer vacation. But though we may rest, we will never sleep. We will use this summer to re-energize ourselves, to kindle the fire in our journalistic souls, to hit the ground running as we reemerge next fall in full force.
If praise is due, we will praise.
If criticism is due, we will criticize.
If creativity is due, we will create.
If investigation is due, we will investigate.
Tirelessly, for the goal we seek is truth.
And truth is good.
-Titein emet l’Yaakov, chessed l’Avraham, asher nishbata la’avoteinu mimei kedem.