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Give ‘Em Hell–My Rebuttal To Technician EIC Chittilla

January 14, 2015

IMG_3353For the second year in a row, Technician, the student newspaper of NC State and my de facto college home from 1996-2001, has decided against publishing “The Daily Tar Hell,” a spoof of UNC’s student newspaper.

Like many alums of NC State–student media and otherwise–the decision to not publish a DTH again has been met with sadness and frustration. It’s not universally loved by members of the NC State community, but those who have contributed to its production in the past or enjoyed reading it over the years definitely feel the sting of its absence.

Technician’s Editor-In-Chief Ravi K. Chittilla released a statement in today’s edition explaining why the Daily Tar Hell was not produced:

Like other newspapers, the role of the Technician is to educate and inform its readers, which in this case is you, the student body. By that standard, The Daily Tar Hell does nothing to fulfill that responsibility.
I simply have no intention of using the limited resources we have here at the Technician to distract from our goal.

Have we always been a bastion of the most important and relevant news for students?

No, we haven’t. But the Technician is, at its core, a teaching and learning experience not only for its staff members, but for its readers as well. As for the students who work for the Technician, there’s an opportunity for them to learn new skills and valuable lessons each day.

I encourage you to read Ravi’s entire piece. He accepts sole responsibility for the decision not to produce a DTH, and he states his opinions far more fairly than last year’s EIC did.

But while I respect his opinion on why the paper should not produce a spoof, I disagree and have a rebuttal to a couple of his key positions on the matter.

1. The newspaper’s role: Chittilla is correct when he says the primary role of the paper is to educate and inform the student body. Does a spoof issue accomplish either of those goals? Probably not.

But there’s nothing in the rule books that says Technician can’t stray from that primary role for one issue per year to serve a secondary role–entertainment. A fun diversion from the steady flow of content about student body minutes and tuition hikes.

My primary role as a parent is to educate and inform my children as to the proper way to live life and become a healthy member of society. My secondary roles include playing with them on XBox or having burping contests. Neither of those activities could reasonably be construed as “educational or informative,” but I would argue they are fun and strengthen the bond we have between each other.

In the same sense, a break from the ho-hum educational, informative content stream can foster the relationship between reader and newspaper. As a Technician staffer, I looked forward to creating the spoof every year and I know many readers looked forward to reading it simply because it was fun. A break from the norm. It reminded readers that the paper wasn’t staffed by humorless automatons but college students just like them who enjoy the fun of college sports and rivalries and a good ol’ fashion dick joke.

Educate and inform 99% of the time, but don’t lose sight of the importance of that remaining 1%.

2. Limited resources: I can only speak to my time when I was at the paper with regards to what it took financially to “make it happen.” I know it was tough at times then, and lord knows selling print and online advertising now must certainly be more difficult.

That said–we made it happen back then because we WANTED to make it happen. I had the good fortune of working with some great business staff like my good friends Chris Ragone and Alan Hart, and when it came time to figure out how we were going to pay for the spoof, they busted their ass to drum up ads to pay for it. They did so because creating the spoof was fun and they saw the value of it.

(Worth noting–at that time and likely to this day, very, very little of the operating capital of the paper came from student fees. The vast majority of our six-figure annual budget came from student-generated ad income.)

Times are tough no doubt, but the stance that limited resources stood in the way of making this happen falls on somewhat deaf ears. If the EIC, staff and business office wanted to produce a spoof, the resources would be there.

And that brings us to the crux of the matter: if Technician had produced a spoof this year, very likely it would not be very good because it’s clear the entire staff at Technician–not just Chittilla–didn’t want it bad enough. It would’ve been one produced out of obligation, not desire.

And that’s the saddest part of all of this–it seems the fun I remember is gone from Technician. If that’s the truly case, then I would ask Chittilla and all the staff of the paper one simple question: why? Why invest so much of yourselves into something that you all take so seriously?

I took great pride in working at the paper and in producing great content day in and day out. I loved competing–and BEATING–papers from other schools that enjoyed the luxuries of journalism departments and paid writing coaches that we did not have at our disposal. Trust me, it wasn’t all fun and games every day in Witherspoon.

But the spoof reminded us all that at the end of the day we were all still college kids, having fun doing something we loved doing. We looked forward to making it and we looked forward to seeing the reaction from students on campus (and from sports writers in the media room of Reynolds). The element of fun embodied in the spoof is what routinely drug us into the office long before classes and kept us there well into the wee hours of the morning.

If working at the paper is largely not fun (and one poop headline isn’t proof to the contrary), I can’t imagine myself or any college student sacrificing the necessary time needed to make the paper what it can be.

Ravi, you make the case that there’s an opportunity for the students working at Technician to learn valuable lessons. I’ll share with you one of the most important Technician taught me: if you don’t enjoy what you do or try to interject some fun into your work from time to time, life loses a lot of its luster.

You’re only young once, Ravi. Give ’em Hell.

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