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The Observer, and other good things

Andrew Nesi | Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The funniest thing I’ve ever seen in The Observer was published a few months ago. On the page typically dedicated to national and international news, the full-page-width headline said this:

“9/11 Masterminds Prepared to Confess.”

Don’t worry, we’re not to the funny part yet.

The headline was right – 9/11 masterminds were, in fact, prepared to confess. And the article was complete, and didn’t continue on the wrong page or anything.

Beneath the headline, though, was a picture. Unfortunately, as far as I know, the people pictured were not, in fact, 9/11 masterminds. No, they were a lesbian couple from Iowa City, Iowa, and their three lovely young children.

And you thought not having a recognized Gay-Straight Student Alliance was as bad as Notre Dame got.

Newspapers have long been known to navel-gaze, a bit. It’s not unusual to see front-page newspaper stories about the decline of the newspaper, as if those outside the paper cared as much about the solvency of the Sacramento Bee as they do about Iraq, Obama and other front page news.

But this is not an example of gazing at my own navel. To be clear, I’m not really part of The Observer. I mean, yes, I get invited to the parties, and mooch off the paper’s budget for a delicious dinner at The Vine each semester. But other than that, all I do is send in an e-mail once every other week.

Until there was free Heavenly Ham in The Observer offices at the end of last semester, I had never met then-Editor-in-Chief Chris Hine. I only knew Kaitlynn Riely, another editor, from class and her embarrassing spam-post (a new noun) on my Facebook wall about a cool new Web site I could go to find about all of my crushes. And I only knew Deirdre Krasula, yet another editor, because she was a mediocre defensive back on the Badin interhall football team that I helped coach. Last week, they all left office, leaving the keys and responsibility to a whole new set of budding liberal media elites.

So all of that aside, there’s something most people on this campus don’t realize about The Observer staff:

These people work damn hard every single day and night to get out a full paper. That’s not something that most school newspapers even dream of doing – once a week, maybe three times, that’s more standard. But every day? We’re in pretty good company.

They catch a lot of flak on this campus for their faults. I’ve had at least three professors who have shared with the class that they avoid The Observer as much as possible. Another suggested that reliable source of news would be to read The Observer, and believe the opposite. And granted, many students on this campus would be perfectly happy if, instead of a full newspaper, The Observer just printed a word jumble, crossword puzzle and horoscopes every day.

The hyperbole aside, I understand all of that. And importantly, from my impression, so does The Observer.

Yes, sometimes they make hysterically funny mistakes.

And yes, sometimes, their articles are incomplete. Sometimes their quotes are basically fabricated. Sometimes their pictures imply that lesbian women were the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks.

And no, they don’t always – or, ever – do the hardest-hitting, investigative journalism.

But compared to many school newspapers, they do an incredible amount of hard work to make it all happen, and it’s really impressive.

At the risk of sounding remarkably ignorant, this is something that it’s taken me until my senior year to realize: by and large, we don’t give student leaders on this campus enough day-to-day credit for the remarkable amount of work they do. Within their organizations and groups, of course, they get due credit. But from the outside, that’s often ignored.

It’s not just Chris, Kaitlynn, Deidre, and countless others at The Observer. It’s Bob, Grant, Cynthia and countless others in Student Government. It’s even Andrew, Greer, Brandon, and countless others at The Irish Rover.

Whatever we think of the content of their work or their attitude towards it, these people all do remarkable things around this campus. They work hard so that we can all be part of a more engaging, interesting, worthwhile campus community. Do they miss the ball sometimes? Of course. And it’s fine to make fun of them when they do.

But I owe them all a thank you, too, and an apology for not saying it sooner.

Andrew Nesi is a senior American Studies major from Fairfield, Conn. As you can tell from this column, he – unlike the people he describes – does not always do the same remarkable amount of work. He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.