Recently, Wilkes University’s school paper, “The Beacon,” released an opinion piece titled “The Odyssey: A Journey That Ends at The Beacon Doorstep,” written by the paper’s co-managing editor, Gabby Glinski. Before we really get into this, I want to acknowledge that we’re all for an opinion piece - people can write about whatever their heart’s desire truly is, but… we also believe in the right to write an opinion piece about another opinion piece. So… here we are.
We’re sure if Glinski or anyone else from The Beacon is reading this, they’re wondering who exactly is writing this. Well, two editors of Odyssey, actually (surprise!). Charlsley Carey, the editor-in-chief of the Midlothian, Virginia community and Taylor Hall, the contributing editor of the same community came together to address the many things wrong with this article. Carey has been working with Odyssey for about a year and a half and Hall has been working with Odyssey for a few months, and their pieces continue to blow people away. We think that we can say that we are two girls who pretty much know what they’re talking about all things Odyssey related. So, after analyzing Glinski’s piece, we have a few problems with it.
Problem 1: Types of stories
One of the first things that Glinski stated in her piece was that Odyssey “Encourages students to write stories centered around their lives on campus.” Wrong. You’re able to write about anything you choose, and articles come from a wide variety of people about an even wider variety of subjects. Some of these communities aren’t even based on college campuses, there are plenty of different communities. In fact, Odyssey’s “About” section, states this: “Odyssey is built to capture the ideas of many and organically amplify those viewpoints to users around the world.” Yeah, that totally sends the message that writers are encouraged to write about one thing. Okay, Glinski.
Problem 2: Odyssey overshadowing campus media
In the opinion piece, Glinski states, “But our hard work is being overshadowed by online socialized media: The Odyssey.” I think it’s a no-brainer that Odyssey was not created to “overshadow” anyone. While Odyssey may end up overshadowing some pieces, it is also a fact that Odyssey content creators are encouraged to, and they do, hyperlink their pieces to other pieces from the school’s paper. Carey (who is the editor-in-chief if you needed a refresher) knows the editor-in-chief of Wilkes University’s Odyssey community, Elyse Guziewicz, and knows how she encourages her creators to often hyperlink their audience to the school’s paper, causing traffic to intermingle between Odyssey and The Beacon. So, if you’re losing readers, don’t go blaming Odyssey.
Problem 3: Content quality
Glinski says that Odyssey discourages writers to discuss deep or personal content. This could not be farther from the truth, as the deeper and personal stories in communities have some of the highest social media shares week after week. In Midlothian, Virginia this week, an article titled, “So Happy Birthday, Cancer,” by creator Clair Walters, had the highest number of social media interactions, for example. Deep and personal content is normally a large makeup of Odyssey’s home page, and rightfully so.
Problem 4: Competition over quality
In the article, it alludes to the fact that, after talking to a few writers who used to write for Odyssey, it must be such an awful place to write for. In one of Glinski's examples, she mentions Kim Hein, a former Odyssey content creator. Hein says “with The Odyssey Online, writers have to promote their own stories through sharing on social media; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. The writer with the most shares by the next week wins a $20 gift card.” She also brings in another voice, Sarah Bedford, another former Odyssey writer, who talks about the competition. “Your worth on this website is measured by if you get the top article,” Bedford states, followed by a complaining of having to share her own article to many social media platforms. (God forbid you share your own work to your friends and family! How dare anyone force the writer to promote their own piece, that’s just unholy!) But, this argument is now basically irrelevant. Why? You may ask. Well, Odyssey just got rid of the $20 reward system (cash, by the way, not a gift card) for most shared article of the week. In fact, unless you are an editor, you won’t even see the share leaderboard.
Problem 5: It takes the fun out of writing.
In this section of the article, Glinski included a quote again from former Odyssey writer, Kim Hein. Hein stated that “It [Odyssey] kind of took the fun out of writing. That being said, I enjoy writing for the Beacon because I have people helping me in the office and it’s a team effort to have all of the stories be on the same level when published.” ...Okay, if you’re allowed to write about anything you want and that’s not fun to you, maybe writing isn’t your passion, Hein. Odyssey writers are able to express themselves however they choose with one deadline per week. Odyssey is also a team effort. We as a community push each other to write our best articles and you get to meet all kinds of different people in writing for Odyssey.
Problem 6: Overwriting of the same topic
In the article, it is mentioned that, “is winning the prize more important than the message being produced? Are overshared listicles and “Dear Future Boyfriend” articles overtaking Facebook feeds and pushing traditional campus media outlets out of the way?” If you browse through Odyssey’s articles, it’s not a shock to see a bunch of people writing similar topics such as “Dear Future Boyfriend,” “An Open Letter To My Mom,” “Dear Graduating Class of ____” but if you take that time to actually sit and read through those articles, you’ll notice that they are all different. They are written by different people with different perspectives in different walks of life. They aren’t the same article and shame on you for shaming people for wanting to write about a topic that they are passionate about, even if other people have written about, too. And also, a lot of people write about drastically different things. Examples: We have creators writing about current pop news events, self care, interviews with local artists, holidays, social experiments, and so many other things. We all don't think we alike, we have brains of our owns.
Problem 7: Picking and choosing content creators
This isn’t a problem specifically that we can pull out a quote from the article, but it’s just something understood. It is a whole lot easier to become a writer for Odyssey than it is to become a writer for a school newspaper. In fact, after a few minutes of looking throughout The Beacon’s website, I couldn’t find anywhere where I could have applied to work there. Maybe it’s an in-person application only, but I saw nothing that would have helped me if I had wanted to write for them. On the contrary, at Odyssey, on the bottom right hand corner one of the buttons clearly states “Request to Join,” where you can then apply for any community with ease.
Problem 8: Who can create contentThe last problem we have is also another problem that we can’t pull out an exact quote for it. But, for The Beacon, the writers are students at Wilkes University - duh. It wouldn’t make sense to have some random person from California writing for them. But, at Odyssey, any millennial can write or create videos; whether you are in college or not. There are Odyssey communities both on campus and off. For example, we are editors for the Midlothian, Virginia community. We go to different schools in different states. Half of the people on the team are either in high school or aren’t in college at all. Therefore, Odyssey gives more people the chance to write than just your standard school newspaper. Hall also writes for the school paper at her university and is grateful for both experiences. But Odyssey is the place where she can express her opinion and have a much more broad range of article topics.
There are many differences in the two different forms of publication, but The Beacon really should have fact checked this opinion piece before publishing it.