Our View: We’re back, and here’s why

The role of the student journalist is necessary during the COVID-19 crisis

Published by The Rocket, Date: September 1, 2020
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Our View is a staff editorial produced collaboratively by the entire Rocket Staff. Any views expressed in the editorial are the opinions of the entire staff. 

To review our editorial policy, which includes our blotter policy, click here.


When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States during spring break, while most students were at home watching and waiting, The Rocket staff went into overdrive. Once in a lifetime cancellations, unparalleled local and national reactions and the opportunity to break it all to the Slippery Rock community and around the state.

We are living history in the making.

This week marks the first week that staff members of The Rocket are actively working to produce our first print issue since our campus was shut down suddenly in March.

Since March, we have published over 85 articles, videos and podcasts related to the coronavirus pandemic. Until a few staff members moved back to the Slippery Rock area in August, all of this work was done entirely remotely.

Now, we face another set of challenges. During print weeks, we are operating with only four people allowed in our office at a time, when normally we expect closer to 10 or 11 people each night.

We chose to reduce our print circulation from 2,000 copies to 1,000 this semester, and we understand that there may be a point this semester when we temporarily halt printing.

We had to work around different operating procedures on campus, mainly around personnel and resource availability, but we will strive to do the absolute best with what are given.

We are trying every possible way to produce these print editions because these stories are so important to our community not only today, but well into the future when these stories tell the history of SRU during the COVID-19 crisis.

At this moment in time, we don’t know what this semester will hold for us. As of Sept. 3 at 4:45 p.m., 25 students have tested positive for coronavirus since Aug. 20. We have little idea how the pandemic will change between now and the end of November, and we have little idea how SRU will respond.

However, each story we publish (in our print editions and on our website) are snapshots into what SRU’s story was at one point in time.

We do know that whatever happens this semester, we will cover it. Even if we can no longer access our office, we will still remotely cover SRU’s stories just like The Rocket has done since 1934.

And we cannot forget more of the historical events unraveling in this given movement. The Black Lives Matter movement, SRU’s gradual partnership with Edinboro University and the 2020 election are all defining moments of this year, and it’s our duty to tell SRU’s stories with this historical context.

When future SRU community members find us through the SRU archives, they will see the stories of students and administration who reacted to these major local, state and national events.

And we don’t take that job lightly.

Student journalists are also in positions to hold the administration and other students accountable for their actions and decisions this semester. As the number of positive cases continues to increase and the administration announces more updates concerning SRU’s response to the pandemic, we have to continue making that information known.

Per the Clery Act, SRU notified students of the first positive case on Aug. 20. Since then, the number of students and staff who tested positive have been updated on a dashboard website, and classes in at least one building on campus have been moved online due to a possible COVID-19 exposure. There are stories to be told behind these numbers, and we look forward to telling the stories of this semester.

At the same time, as the reader of this paper, remember your own role in this pandemic. Within the first three weeks of the semester, pictures of large off-campus gatherings have surfaced on social media.

We all have a role in getting back to a “normal” life one day, but do you really want to look back at SRU’s history and see yourself not being part of the solution?

As Philip L. Graham, former president and publisher of The Washington Post, said, “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.”

In a society in which multiple historical events are occurring simultaneously, student journalists nationwide must prevail.

And regardless of what happens this semester and beyond, we’ll be here.

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