Written by The Tower’s Fall 2021 Editorial Board
The Tower is the independent student newspaper of The Catholic University, and the fall of 2022 will mark its 100 year anniversary. What this board hopes to do in this editorial piece is look back on The Tower’s past 100 years and provide a new vision of the future that will help improve the publication.
Today, universities in every state and the District of Columbia enjoy news from student-run publications, with universities reporting from several different outlets (Birmingham Southern College has eight different student newspapers). Since the onset of student journalism in the 1800s, the field has battled a reputation of invalidity.
Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the unique capabilities of undergraduate journalists to write from a student’s point of view. Student journalists told the world of the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic through the eyes of an individual currently experiencing it. Most importantly, they offered a student’s perspective on some of the most ubiquitous and harrowing issues to date, burgeoning a sense of community and connection among students nationwide during a time when threats to these values were at an all-time high.
Student journalism has been providing a representative account of newsworthy events for years. Famous figures such as John F. Kennedy, George Orwell, and Bob Woodward were once student journalists at their respective schools. However, student journalism has faced censorship and adversity for voicing the opinions of writers all over the campus community. In January 2021, the student newspaper for the University of North Carolina, The Daily Tar Heel, won its legal battle against the university board over the release of campus sexual assault records. The courage of these student journalists to fight for their right to report the news has led to all public colleges in North Carolina being forced to release records on this topic.
Started in 1922, The Tower is Catholic University’s oldest campus tradition. In its long history, The Tower has endured periods of poor journalistic ethics: the quality of The Tower was degraded by the gossip column Morpheus, which thrived off of campus gossip and rumors that were unethical for The Tower to publish. Not only did the column promote gossip in printed format, it also extended into social media. The “Morpheus Q” Twitter page, in Gossip Girl fashion, promoted itself as a page to watch the actions of Catholic U students: “Be careful, and beware, because at CU, Morpheus Q sees you!” This lack of integrity has been a common complaint throughout Tower history, and this legacy has been a topic on the minds of the editors this year. The Tower’s editorial board both condemns this exploitation of the student body’s privacy and continues to strive to produce pieces that respectfully portray campus and student life.
As we work to create a new culture of journalism throughout The Tower this year, we also recognize the publication’s accomplishments. Two years ago The Tower published a piece uncovering sexual misconduct investigations surrounding Monsignor Walter Rossi. The Tower has also won many awards, such as the first place award from the American Scholastic Press and first place for “Best of Show: Newspaper Special Edition” from the Associated Collegiate Press.
In addition to receiving multiple awards, The Tower not only covered articles of great concern to the Catholic University community but also documented major historical events from the perspective of a Catholic University student.
In an edition of The Tower from December 12, 1941, an article covered Catholic U student and faculty reactions to then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s declaration of war upon Japan and the United States’ entrance into World War II. The Tower contributes to the University community not only to provide a source of information concerning University events and student thought but also to offer a historic snapshot in time of an American demographic.
The Tower has always been able to freely cover what is at the forefront of the news because we remain independent of any funding from the University. Because we do not get funding from the University they cannot tell us what we can and cannot print. By being independent, we serve as the voice of the students, rather than the University.
In March of 2002, The Tower ran a story about students becoming enraged with the school’s sexual assault policy when they neglected to properly punish the assailant, who was a fellow student. Catholic U’s policy on sexual assault was reviewed the following April.
At its founding, The Tower became a staple of campus life and served as the primary avenue for students and staff to get a sense of what was happening on campus. With the newspaper industry changing due to the advent of the internet, The Tower had to adapt by creating a website and introducing the weekly newsletter. As we move forward, The Tower renews its commitment to informing the campus and Brookland community in an unbiased and effective manner.
Ultimately, The Tower has one mission: to be a truthful voice of the student body guided by integrity. In the past The Tower has had a reputation of being unprofessional and sensationalizing the truth. Moving forward, this editorial board hopes to set a precedent for ethical and responsible journalism created by the students and for the students. We challenge The Tower staff over the next 100 years to uphold these values of integrity rather than following the patterns of previous Tower staff that have damaged the publication’s reputation and credibility.