The independent news organization of Duke University

Reality Check

There's a conversation going on right now.

"Journalism is changing," is what it usually begins with. "Newspapers are dying," is its natural conclusion. At some point, an enthusiastic college journalist chimes in with, "Journalism's not dying, it's just evolving."

But then this young idealist is challenged to offer a business model that will allow good journalism-the kind that strikes a genuine balance between what readers want to know and what they need to know-to survive. At this point, the enthusiastic objector is usually perplexed.

The questions stumps me too. But as the editor of the 105th volume of The Chronicle, I will ensure that we do everything we can to keep up with the frantic exchange of ideas in the information age.

The paper that this column is printed on is just one component of the product that The Chronicle will be offering this year. You can also follow our Twitter feeds, track our blogs and read our coverage on a new Web site that will debut this Fall at

It's all part of an effort to keep up with the ideas that are swapped every day on this campus and the speed of the conversations around us. Some voices are heard loud and clear in this din, while others sound faint and distant. But The Chronicle is at the center of the swirling mass. As the Duke community's independent student newspaper, it is our duty to make sense of this whirlwind of ideas. Whether our readers are digesting a front page news story or a controversial editorial, The Chronicle should be raising the level of debate that people have about this University.

But, hold on, because now I am devolving into the kind of pretentious language that turns many readers off to good journalism-a conversation-stopper of sorts.

As journalists, we also have to stop taking ourselves so seriously if we want to survive. To our readers we're just not that big of a deal anymore. In a digital world, we don't possess the same monopoly over information that we once did. We still ascribe to an ethical code that mandates thorough, fair, accurate and transparent journalism, but we can't tell our readers that they should read us if they know what's good for them. They will scoff at our hubris by migrating to any of the infinite number of publications available on the Web. Journalists today have to shift from "a lecture mode into a conversation," as blogger Dan Gillmor puts it, by seeing ourselves less like "oracles" of information, and more like your helpful (and humble) "guides" to the issues. That will be our goal this year.

Because at the end of the day we can change our attitudes, our medium and our content, but our journalism means nothing without our readers. So Volume 105 will keep an open mind. We will strive to expand the way we think about our journalism, but we still won't forget about our purpose. The Chronicle has shaped the public debate at this University for more than a hundred years. And we have been enstrusted with the responsibility of continuing that tradition.

The theme of Volume 105's send home issue is the economic recession and its impact on Duke. Take a look at our front page story to see how recent Duke graduates are faring in their efforts to find employment in a down economy. Turn to pages 14 and 15 to see how the University is coping with its $125 million budget deficit, and how Durham plans to respond to cutbacks from the City's largest employer. Consult the editorial above this column to read our thoughts on the appointment of new Board of Trustees chair Dan Blue.

It's our way of getting conversation started. So join the dialogue and tell us what you think.

And if you're interested in being a part of The Chronicle, let us know, because everyone is welcome. Whether you want to report news, pen magazine features, cover sports, critique music, write blog posts, lay out pages, shoot photos, film videos, update Twitter feeds or help design our new Web site, there's a place where you can contribute to our newsroom's discourse.

If you aren't interested, then read us, and give us a chance to be a part of your conversations. The 105th volume will strive to embody our role as: "The Tower of Campus Thought and Action," without having to display it pompously across our masthead.

Let the conversation begin.

Will Robinson is a Trinity junior and editor of The Chronicle. Reach him at


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