A new ‘Odyssey’ for journalism?


BY RACHAEL BLANDAU – STAFF WRITER

This year, Centre was given its branch of The Odyssey, an online publication created by the students, for the students. Thus started our “Odyssey” into college students’ and millennials’ new favorite Buzzfeed-esque website. While their stories are relatable, they are not intended to be much more than a commentary on the world. Therefore the Odyssey cannot be seen as a quality news source—more of a magazine intended for a narrow audience or a college blog.

The Odyssey is a social media platform, which aims to take news from campus communities and make them more accessible to people around the globe. Stories are written and published by college students, and recent graduates—people that are college age, that put out content that we should deem relevant.

While this is a good idea, it undermines the goal one should have in mind when reading a publication: learning something new. Writers comment on something that is widely known but never talked about—such as their much shared “dad-bod” article—and things that people find annoying or amazing, lists that are meant to be shared and gushed about.
In a newspaper like the New York Times, the aim is to introduce the readers to something new, like what Donald Trump said at the Iowa State Fair. Their stories are relevant in a different way: they inform and urge people to think. Publications such as the Odyssey and Buzzfeed are not revolutionary; they are a commentary like a blog, a way for students to get excited about new fads but not much more. While this may be interesting, it cannot be—and should not be—counted as news.

The Odyssey got started on Centre’s campus when Editor-in-Chief Devin Baker e-mailed them asking for a section for our campus. It works differently than most publications, as there are branches at colleges around the United States that are linked to the online headquarters. Therefore, their online editors do not only edit those who write for The Odyssey but by their campus editors as well.

“Some of our editors are students, and the articles will go through them before being passed on to our managing editor who is actually staffed for The Odyssey– it is his job,“ sophomore writer for the publication Sajel Schwarz said.

Odyssey Online Centre Editor Devin Baker | Photographer: Michelle Kim

Odyssey Online Centre Editor Devin Baker | Photographer: Michelle Kim

Another difference between them and actual news sources is the fact that the writers are not told what to write—they come up with the ideas for the stories themselves.

“My favorite part is that you can really write about anything,” Schwarz said “They give you a lot of freedom to talk about what you want to talk about which is nice.”

This new concept where contributors can write about what they want is nice, but can lower the site’s quality. Since The Odyssey is so big, and those who run the section at their campus choose who gets to write, those who are chosen to write for them may not be contributing much. While these stories are edited and may not have grammatical errors, they can lack in originality—because they just couldn’t come up with a new idea—or constructive content.

Since contributors write so many of these articles per week, they may write one quality article versus three recycled articles that lack originality. This is The Odyssey’s largest affront to real journalism; because newspapers such as the New York Times or Washington Post give their writers stories, cut articles, and limit the number of articles they have per week in the paper, the quality stays top of the line. Journalism should be about the quality of what is put out there, not the quantity.

The founders of the website are working more on expansion of their brand, rather than the quality of what they already have.

“We mastered that model and made it extremely relevant to specific communities. A few months ago we were at 8 communities and now we’re at 160. That will only grow,” Managing Editor Kate Waxler said in an interview with PR Week. “ We’re producing 2,000 articles per week. That is a lot of content.”

While The Odyssey is putting out a lot of content, and its readers are sharing and gushing over their lists and blurbs, it is not the way of the future as their executives suggest. When readers want to know about important issues, or catch up with what is going on in politics, they will never gravitate towards websites such as The Odyssey or Buzzfeed. It is not a bad website to click through, but it is not the New York Times, and never will be.


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