Let me begin by saying I love the Beacon. The Beacon was one of the first campus organizations I joined my freshman year, two whole years before the Odyssey even came to the Wilkes Campus, and I wrote and edited for the Beacon long before the Odyssey came into my life. In the spring of 2015, I took second place for my opinion columns in the PA News Media Keystone Press Awards for college publications.
I’ve been the Editor-in-Chief for the Wilkes University chapter of the Odyssey Online for almost six months, a quarter of the time I spent working for the Beacon. I’m highly involved in campus-only media; as the Executive Editor of the Manuscript literary magazine and a continuing copy editor for the Beacon, I pride myself on staying involved in campus publications whenever I can. That being said, the Beacon being threatened by the Odyssey was more amusing to me than upsetting.
The Beacon is primarily campus print media. Well organized, well written print media, but inherently limited to the Wilkes community. There are many quality pieces published in the Beacon every week, but the primary readership is within the few blocks that make up Wilkes University. The Odyssey barely compares. It’s a bigger organization, run out of New York, New York, with localized communities all over the United States.
Our media exists only online, with a clean, user-friendly interface making it easy to find articles on whatever topic you choose. It’s a very different platform from a print newspaper, with over 80 percent of readers viewing articles on mobile devices. One of the major complaints Gabby’s editorial proposed was the issue of social sharing. At the Odyssey, social sharing is at the heart of our organization – every article needs to be shared on multiple platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and many other popular media outlets.
The Beacon’s major source of readership is the newspaper stand, located in various places around campus, where Beacons are placed every week for students, faculty, and staff to pick up and read. “Are overshared listicles and “Dear Future Boyfriend” articles overtaking Facebook feeds and pushing traditional campus media outlets out of the way?” Well, yes, you could put it that way – but then again the Beacon doesn’t have a foot to stand on when 87 percent of Odyssey’s traffic is generated by organic (person-to-person) social sharing, while the Beacon authors almost never share their articles online. I find it difficult to understand why the Beacon feels as if “it’s being overshadowed by online socialized media” when the Beacon barely runs online now, the WordPress website puttering along like a nineties station wagon – getting the job done.
Of course the Odyssey has more online traffic – we’re an online publication with a beautiful website. The Beacon isn’t as easy to access as the Odyssey for creators either – as a commuter who spent two years taking the bus to and from school, working three jobs in addition to academics made nighttime Beacon meetings nearly impossible for me to attend, and it got harder and harder to create regular content completely on my own. Odyssey requires commitment, but it’s a lot easier to submit entirely online and not worry about a time commitment on campus.
No offense to the Beacon and the hard work this team puts into the paper, but Odyssey isn’t in the same weight class as you. The Beacon is the only one who sees Odyssey as a competitor; to any outsider, our two publications aren’t comparable. We’re a national publication, edited from NYC, reaching over thirty million people all over the world. We’re no more a threat to campus media than Buzzfeed. To the former Odyssey creators who prefer the Beacon: more power to you, but your reform has already happened. Some of the former creators from the Beacon were working during my time as EIC, and some were let go due to a lack of commitment.
My current team of nine creators is dedicated, putting out quality content week-by-week without limitations by section or topic. Charlsley Carey, the Editor-In-Chief for the Midlothian, VA community, said “I had always loved writing, but I didn’t want it to something too serious… I wanted something where I could write about whatever I wanted with no real limitations or censorship. At Odyssey I not only discovered I was actually not too shabby with coming up with topics and writing, but I fell in love with it as well.” That’s what we’re all about.