Our View is a staff editorial produced collaboratively by The 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.
A mere 420 days ago, The Rocket staff published its final print edition of the spring 2020 semester. While our staff didn’t know it at the time, a global pandemic would shut down The Rocket’s print production until the fall 2020 semester.
After finishing the spring 2020 semester by regularly providing digital-only coverage of SRU news and happenings, The Rocket came back to an abnormal college experience–one in which the staff would need to continue its work, but mostly remotely.
For nearly a century, The Rocket has strived to bring local news to the Slippery Rock community that is relevant, informative and showcases the diverse groups that exist here all while battling hardships many college newsrooms face.
While The Rocket has witnessed standard journalistic trials such as questioning and criticism, the hardship presented by a global pandemic is something The Rocket had to quickly adapt to in order to continue our duty of reporting.
Despite COVID-19, though, we have strived to continue to deliver quality coverage of the Slippery Rock community, and not only have we continued to succeed, we have also seen our newspaper recognized by multiple professional organizations. Having strived for excellence during these times, we are not only excited for the future of our newspaper as SRU returns to a more normal setting, but also as new staff members join our staff and current staff members rise to new positions.
From the start of the pandemic with covering the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) response to the pandemic to digging into the economic effects of Coronavirus, The Rocket has reported on COVID-19 from the very beginning. This semester, we followed the COVID-19 case numbers and compared them to last semester at this time.
In years past, The Rocket staff would sometimes struggle keeping up with all the events that were being hosted by offices, organizations and clubs across campus, but strived to inform and represent the unique groups of SRU’s campus. Though, COVID-19 required staff to cover events when it felt like there was “nothing happening” around us, and made contact hard as not only staff, but the SRU community were spread far and wide.
Through this virtual form of engagement in classes or events, stressors have increasingly built up and made easier for students to be tempted to not only not participate, but to also shut out the world altogether. Though, it takes a lot of courage to get up from something like this and get things done.
At The Rocket, we have collectively gotten up to make sure we not only get work done, but to produce quality work that holds up to our journalistic standards including staying diverse in coverage; this includes engaging every group on campus we can think of, interviewing people who’s voices need a platform, and publishing what we as students believe needs to be heard. It is this type of coverage that contributes to the unique perspective we strive to amplify that’s not only representative of us, but to everyone in the Slippery Rock community.
Overall, even with over half our staff living off campus, we remained a family and managed long distance contact to achieve one common goal. Through all of the negative effects of the pandemic, one of the positive effects was stronger communication, which made for an even stronger relationship among staff members.
Despite the restrictions that COVID-19 brought upon us, from limiting the number of staff members in office to building a newspaper from very different locations, we won more awards than ever before.
The Rocket just a few weeks ago walked away with more than 20 awards from the Society for Collegiate Journalists’ 2020-21 National Contest, many of which centered on our newspaper’s coverage of COVID-19.
As a staff, we placed first for “Newspaper Overall Excellence,” a first for The Rocket in 10 years, and second for “Social Media Presence Overall Excellence.” Additionally, we received numerous honors for our editorials, including first for “‘Data Transparency Critical During COVID-19 Crisis;” second for “An Election with Historic Consequences;” and an honorable mention for “We’re Back and Here’s Why.”
Our individual staff members have also walked away with many of their own awards, including first place for “News Photography: ‘March for Equality,'” first place for “Continuing Coverage: ‘COVID-19 Continuing Coverage,'” and second place for Front Page (11-20-2020), Editorial Page (9-4-2020) and News Page (9-25-2020).
It is successes such as these that recognize The Rocket’s determination to provide the campus community with complete and accurate reporting. Even with a turnover of staff and a return to a more normal university environment, we will not waiver in providing excellent coverage.
Although we will transition into more in-person classes and events next semester, we have not forgotten about the effects of COVID-19 on students and the community. The Rocket will continue to cover the pandemic as it progresses and encourage students to not only take care of themselves physically, but also mentally and emotionally as we continue to overcome this pandemic.
During the past two semesters, The Rocket has proven that we can overcome adversity and challenges together to uphold our duties as journalists. As we transition into a new semester with new staff, we will not stop doing what we do best.
This new semester will bring us a sense of normalcy: returning to most classes in person, seeing some of those same faces in classrooms and hallways, and, for The Rocket, returning to the office in a somewhat larger capacity.
It is with these changes that we will thrive. If our staff has learned anything from the past year of coverage, it is that we are a much more informed, resilient community when we stick to our mission and code of ethics despite the circumstances and odds against us.