Farewell from the Mirror editors

Farewell from the Mirror editors
Editors-in-chief Olivia Bertino and Sydney Denekamp discuss a print copy with Mirror faculty adviser Jeffrey Miller in his office. Photo by Laura Johnson.

The Mirror hasn’t seen a team of co-editors-in-chief for a while — the last set graduated in 2010. It’s a hard job to share with so many responsibilities and possibilities for mistakes.

We would like to think we made it work because of our good-cop-bad-cop leadership style.

Sydney made writing happen. She kept people on-task and upheld our values, even when they were challenged.

Olivia was there for the staff — to teach them, help them and be the friendly face behind the publication. We started joking that we became “the hive mind” — two people who worked under the same consciousness with the same goals.

In reality, we had to be an indivisible unit, or the year that we faced would have torn us apart. The Mirror dealt with unresponsive sources, newspapers being removed from campus buildings, cut-backs on printing and disputes with other students and administrators this academic year alone.

The problems we faced this year at Augustana are indicative of a greater problem within journalism. According to the Pew Research Center, 66% of people in the U.S. think that journalists’ political views impede their work. A Gallup poll reported that 38% of people in the U.S. have no confidence at all in newspapers, television or radio journalism, and only 7% have a “great deal” of trust in any form of journalism.

Journalism is demanding, laborious and often soul-sucking work. There’s rarely any reward for it either. The pay is terrible, and the public we serve tends to hate rather than appreciate the work we do. So, after five combined years of working for the Mirror and having written 65 stories between the two of us, neither editor will be pursuing a full-time career in journalism after graduation.

It wasn’t all tribulations, though. We also built one of the largest staffs the Mirror has seen, with 15 paid journalists and a handful of contributing writers.

Most years, editors hope for a staff of nine, which would cover the bare minimum positions and still require contributing writers.

We also raised enough funds through advertising to pay for new computers for the office, and the Mirror increased its readership to over 2,500 people.

The two of us have only come this far by working together. If it wasn’t for the support of our adviser, Jeffrey Miller, our colleagues on the Edda, including Laura Johnson and her adviser Janet Blank-Libra, and the support of the humanities standing behind us, our publication could not have been this strong.

There’s still a lot of important work yet to be done, and next year’s editor Abbey Stegenga and her staff will serve the Mirror exceptionally.

Journalism thrives with support. The Mirror needs people to continue reading and talking about its stories, and it needs students and other sources to offer their time to contribute to reporting.

More than anything, the Mirror will always thrive when the staff uplifts itself — the way we know we did for each other, and the way we hope will continue to happen with future editors and their staffs.