The Odyssey is a nationwide campus online social organization that encourages students to write stories centered around their lives on campus. The organization is dedicated to “democratizing content creation while personalizing discovery.”
More than 1,000 campus communities have The Odyssey installed with about 14,000 writers total. Wilkes University is one of those campuses. Wilkes University is also a campus with an abundance of campus media: The Beacon, WCLH Radio and Wilkes Now. Campus media provide an outlet for students to have a free voice on issues and news that directly impacts the campus community, especially at The Beacon, where the staff covers controversial topics from drug use to acts of discrimination to opinions on presidential debates, each week. But our hard work is being overshadowed by online socialized media: The Odyssey.
The Odyssey allows students to join their staff to write about anything the writers desire each week. It sounds like a writer’s paradise; but a few former Odyssey writers, and current Beacon editors, disagree.
Sarah Bedford, senior and editor-in-chief of The Beacon, joined Odyssey in March of last year, but her excitement of joining a new publication did not last long. Bedford instantly noticed the lack of organization in the Wilkes Odyssey chapter. She became frustrated with the lack of “quality content” The Odyssey churned out. Bedford wrote a personal piece for The Odyssey on a health condition she has had since age five. She had her piece edited by many professors because she wanted it to be perfect.
“As soon as a story gets serious, people don’t want to touch it,” Bedford said. “It was kind of discouraging if you’re a real writer.”
Kim Hein, senior, Life Arts & Entertainment Editor and former The Odyssey writer felt the same way. Writing for the site became more of a job than something she enjoyed with too many unnecessary steps. With The Odyssey Online, writers have to promote their own stories through sharing on social media; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. The writer with the most shares by the next week wins a $20 gift card.
“Your worth on this website is measured by if you get the top article,” Bedford, who had to post her Odyssey articles to Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, said. It pitted writers against each other.
Hein found herself not agreeing with The Odyssey’s methods of promoting participation and writing generalized easy articles so she could get shares. Is winning the prize more important than the message being produced? Are overshared listicles and “Dear Future Boyfriend” articles overtaking Facebook feeds and pushing traditional campus media outlets out of the way?
“It kind of took the fun out of writing. That being said, I enjoy writing for the Beacon because I have people helping me in the office and it’s a team effort to have all of the stories be on the same level when published.” stated Hein.
Elyse Guziewicz, the new editor this semester of The Odyssey Online for Wilkes believes in providing a voice to everyone on campus, not just to those who fit into a certain personality or method of communication.
“Campus media is incredibly important to our culture and I would never speak badly about it, but it’s inherently limited in not only scope but in form and function,” said Guziewicz.
I realize, as a Co-Manager of The Beacon, I have a bias to my position and newspaper.
But I can see that The Odyssey has a place on this campus; perhaps just a reform would be in need to get The Odyssey on par with other campuses. I am not a fan of the content that the writers of The Odyssey write. The race for attention the writers strive to win just fuels to the overshadowing of campus news. This is not anyone’s fault. I believe that with reform in the organization methods, content requirements and sharing of articles, The Odyssey can be a great social platform for students to share experiences. Unfortunately, it started off on the wrong foot. Perhaps in the future, The Odyssey can make the internet great again.