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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Community conversations

Published: May 2, 2008
Section: Features

Since 2005 those looking for a forum to discuss and understand community issues found one in The Hoot.

When The Hoot was first chartered in 2004, co-founder Igor Pedan told the Justice that he wanted to bring a focus back to the community. With each passing semester The Hoot has evolved to be able to better address that goal. Over the last few years The Hoot has engaged with difficult campus issues such as bringing controversial speakers to campus, addressing gender and racial inequality, and investigating the actions and policies of the student union and administration – to name a few. Its OP-ED pages have been packed with readers thoughts about injustices on campus, and commentary on student publications’ content. With more stable funding three years after its fledgling days, The Hoot has been better poised to address and explore these issues.

The Hoot is not just an alternative to the Justice. The mere presence of both publications on campus has improved the quality and breadth of coverage of news on campus as a whole, but the publications’ missions are not the same.

“To acquire wisdom, one must observe” is the motto proclaimed at the top of each Hoot issue. The Hoot has served as a watchdog on campus, raising awareness about issues in administrative and student union policy that the campus may not otherwise have known.

The Hoot is unique in its policy of accepting and publishing any pieces of interest to the general community. Because of The Hoot’s focus on Brandeis-specific news it has started dialogues which have been inspired by controversial works it published that may not have had opportunity to be printed elsewhere. Reflections and responses on these pieces have taken place in our Opinion pages, but more importantly for our publication, reactionary discourse has taken place in dorm rooms, the Campus Center, and over meals.

The Hoot’s role has always been to seek truth and report it – exposing the complex issues and changes that have propelled our campus forward to where it stands today. The controversies that take place on campus along with relevant commentary on sports and cultural coverage are explored by curious people asking important questions, and our 3,000-plus readers can expect nothing less from the pages of The Hoot.

As our campus has undergone construction and changed, so has The Hoot. The Hoot’s focus in the last year has expanded to incorporate some new media content – including podcasts and real-time blogging of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament games – bringing a new audience to its website beyond Brandeis students. These moves provided vital practice for Hoot staff harnessing new media opportunities and gave online readers more options for news consumption. Additionally, The Hoot’s podcasts of all the Student Union candidates stances on various issues formed the basis for wise voting and enlightened governance; a crucial role for a campus publication.

The mere creation of The Hoot also set an important example for the campus and its journalistic community. As news organizations are consumed by massive corporations, and funding is siphoned away from investigative pieces and foreign bureaus, having an opportunity to foster competition on campus and force publications to strive for accuracy, has taught the student journalists to strive for better quality and the need for competition, imbuing the next generation of student journalists with this value.

The Hoot’s policies and style echo the campus’s focus on having an active student body engaged with local and global issues. It is constantly growing and putting new talent to work.

The Hoot, which used to need to ask the F-board for funding issue-to-issue has grown stronger with each passing semester, such that this year’s graduating class will be the last one to remember a campus without more than one student newspaper.

The hope for the future is that The Hoot will continue to grow, improve, and meld the unique writing, photography, copy editing, and new media talents of so many students to continue to produce such praiseworthy work.