Today I was going to write about the perks of raising a kitten in a college dorm, but I'm going to lob a snowball of a critique at this website instead. Once upon a time, Odyssey was a well-run platform. They expanded without abandon, encouraging every school and every amateur writer to sign up. I was initially enamored with the "no-rules" policy when it came to what I wrote about or how I went about doing it. I thought it would be great experience for me to get in the practice of writing weekly articles, all while getting the exposure that comes with a semi-popular online outlet.
And then, around this time last year, Odyssey downsized its HQ staff by 75% because they weren't making enough money. We bade an awkward goodbye to our lovely Managing Editor, as well as her infographics, GroupMe chat, weekly Google Hangouts, feedback, and advice. There was no longer any higher-up to hold us to deadlines or recruitment quotas, and our questions were rarely answered. We were on our own. The ghost of ME Ella still remains in MUSE (our eternally broken publishing platform), and they couldn't (or didn't bother to) remove her personal contact information from our community list. Now there are about seven Managing Editors left of the original 50. In the weeks following the culling, over 20 of Ella's Editors-in-Chief, myself included, were still expressing our confusion in the dead GroupMe chat -- "Have you all been assigned new MEs yet?" -- I had been reassigned and was able to negotiate an every-other-week deadline, but that's about it. Some had not been contacted at all, some were stood up after scheduling calls with their new MEs, and some were randomly stripped of their EIC status without warning or explanation. It was clear that there was no support system in place.
One year later, there are now separate Facebook groups for Tier 1 schools (the smaller ones) and Tier 2 schools (the bigger ones). Although I am a member of the former, and my writers regularly put time and effort into articles such as these, we have no incentives, no feedback, no resources to expand our community. We finally got an email from a Content Specialist the other day, promising more one-on-one communication and dedication to growth, only to find out that the email was meant only for Tier 2 editors. Whoops. Luckily I saved the infographics my first ME gave me, and I get most of my editing information from the manual I got on my first day. I've made my own polls, kept a spreadsheet of my writers' information, and have kept record of various email templates. I've spent a good deal of my own money on funding meetups to foster a sense of community with my writers, and I knew without a doubt that I would never be reimbursed by HQ.
Odyssey on its own is not a community. It is a platform, just like any other, that profits off of the ideas of unpaid college students. When it's apparent that an article from a small liberal arts college won't get enough views as an article on sororities or Christianity at a larger school, we're dumped into the backseat and left to wither away. Everyone I know scoffs when I mention the Odyssey, since the articles they spend most of their energy promoting are "clickbaity" (and, upon further inspection, not even well-written and riddled with spelling and grammatical errors). I feel no connection to HQ, especially since they've made it clear how expendable we are to them. They grew too big, too fast, and now it's coming back to bite them in the ass. What I'm upset about is that the writers I'm responsible for are working hard for basically nothing. No money, no visibility, no recognition. The disorganization at Odyssey isn't a huge revelation, but after all the personal time and money I've put into my position and to keep my community alive, what we receive in return is discouraging at the very least.
Still interested in joining? Go for it. If anything, it's good experience both as a writer and as a member of a company that will force you to cultivate and develop your own community.
[Names have been changed]