How Odyssey Failed SIU And Writers Everywhere
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Politics and Activism

How Odyssey Failed SIU And Writers Everywhere

If you don't care, why should we?

How Odyssey Failed SIU And Writers Everywhere
Shelby Barker

Odyssey as a company has gone through some major changes throughout its existence. When I took over as Editor-in-Chief of the team at Southern Illinois University back in late 2015, Odyssey was a small, quaint company focused on expanding its name and finding awesome people to write awesome, original content for them. My team was a small roller-coaster of lots of people joining, then lots of people quitting when they realized they didn't have time for the strict "one article per week" schedule Odyssey had for them. Many of us stayed and built a strong foundation, and throughout the almost two years since, we've gone through several internal changes with different strategies, priorities, and rules.

While the weekly deadline always persisted, there were some phases where Odyssey was very concerned with creating an identity unique from Buzzfeed and other pop culture sites. We had to write a certain amount of "news" and world events and we had to share our articles to several different forums. We worked with a higher-up editor/manager that help us set team-specific goals that I had meetings with every single week. We wrote about our specific community culture and events, we wrote about politics, and we really tried to stick to the book. I was sent guidelines to send to new team members. We had numerical goals of page views we had to hit before I could get paid. (PS, Editor-in-Chief has always been presented as a paid job; according to my managers, they always wanted to make sure I was getting paid for my work.)

Through all of these different small changes, my team managed to find a very strong balance between funny listicles and serious articles. Every one of my team members found his own niche and had his own kind of style to writing that brought something unique to the community. We were one of the prime examples of the potential Odyssey had to bring talented people together and be successful. I was paid several months in a row because one of my teammates' articles went viral, and everyone else was getting thousands of views on their own as well. It was perfect and successful.

Then, one day, Odyssey (in my opinion) dug their own grave. They fired a huge number of editorial staff, including my beloved friend and boss, and flipped the entire system upside down. We went a month without knowing who our new overseer was; several times, I was assigned a new manager whom I'd reach out to and never hear from again or would miss our meeting times. No one from Odyssey reached out to us for weeks, and I told my team that it wasn't their responsibility to continue working their asses off when our company didn't know what they were doing. We planned on jumping back into gear as soon as Odyssey got its shit together.

That was February. It is now the end of June.

Since then, Odyssey gave us a wonderful regional editor that tried to help us and get us back to a place where we could all feel comfortable getting back into the swing of things. But with finals and jobs and other priorities, that didn't happen right away. We slumped for a little while. And then I realized: no one cared when we didn't submit. Nothing happened. No one ever checked back in with me, no one said anything when our numbers plummeted, no one cared at all for four months. This made me realize that Odyssey essentially got rid of everyone who actually cared about the company and the thousands of branches made of thousands of writers that built it from the ground up.

I've received emails here and there (always from different people whom I've never met) about new surveys and policies and Facebook groups that no one on my team cares about. They all say the same thing: "it's your job to build the team up, and when you reach a certain level, we might consider pairing you up with someone to help you reach your goals." It's always disguised as a "hands off" kind of system, but really, it's a cop-out. These teams are made of college students who have other things to do; we joined Odyssey as an extra way to harvest our joy for writing or to say what we need to say. And if no one cares about all of the work we put in or don't put in, why keep doing it?

At this point, this is what Odyssey looks like as a company: a Buzzfeed Jr. with no depth. They don't care about their writers. They care about publicity. Their company Facebook page shares nothing but logical fallacies of articles over controversial topics (I'm looking at you, To The Girls Who Wear Cheeky Bottoms) over and over and over trying to stir the pot and get more page views while they ignore the thousands of well-written articles being posted every week. In my year and a half working for Odyssey, always being told they wanted me to get paid for managing a team of 20 people, having weekly meetings with editors, and taking the time out of my day EVERY DAY to make sure that we were hitting the goals we needed, all while working and going to school, I was paid not more than 5 times. In 18 months. Only one of my writers ever got paid. And then, after telling us they wanted us to start being successful again and get back on track, they left us out to dry.

I love my team and the amazing, talented people I've met through it. But at this point, would it be better for us to call it quits? Why continue to be a part of a company that takes and takes and takes without even offering guidance unless you hit 45,000 page views?

Odyssey: if you don't care, why should we?

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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