I’ve learned a lot during my 3+ years with the team. Like most new Odyssey writers, I started during a very hectic time in my life — in the midst of my sophomore year of college, my first part-time job, and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Initially as a sophomore, I received very little direction concerning what type of content I was supposed to be writing about. That’s one of the beauties of this platform: it covers virtually anything and everything. I later learned this flexibility is both helpful and harmful to the creators that associate with its name.
The thing most people don’t understand about Odyssey is that as writers, we don’t get paid for our work. Everything is voluntary. Upon joining, writers are told to send in weekly submissions, regardless of whether or not we have worthy content to share. A strike system is put into place to ensure that writers send timely submissions. Once submitted, the content is placed in the hands of editors that have the liberty to change anything they'd like without the writer's permission... and (depending on the editor) they often do. It can become pretty irritating to first see your writing altered after the publication is already released under your name and automatically shared on all of your personal social media accounts.
The company focuses on quantity over quality, often encouraging clickbait and confrontational topics, regardless of how misinformed the content may be. Supporting this system is a weekly monetary incentive given to writers with the most shares. This means that every time a reader shares an article, they are helping the writer get paid, regardless of whether the reader's critique was positive or negative. (Moral of the story: be careful what you share).
Now you may be wondering, “so why did you stay?” The same reason most writers do: the publication offered me a space to express myself in ways that other publications rarely do. I was able to exercise my writing muscle regularly and push myself to confront topics I would otherwise shy away from. I gained great things from my experience: primarily a way to share my opinions with hundreds of friends and family. In turn, I also reached thousands more that viewed and shared my content from all over the world.
Over the years, I’ve received emails and messages from readers in the Rio Grande Valley, UT Austin students I’ve never met in person, people in cities like Houston and San Antonio, a Brisbane folk band, and even a woman from Australia who was curious over the difference between California and Texas’ “Valley” region. It is an exhilarating feeling to have a total stranger come up to you and say “You get it, it’s like you can read my mind.” I’ve had multiple moments where I meet these people and with our eyes alone I can feel us both say “I see you, I really see you.” I can never repay Odyssey for showing me what writing can do in that regard.
On another note, I am not just leaving Odyssey because I have recently graduated. Another thing that this publication emphasized to me was that dedication and experience were not as important as favoritism. Working in a voluntary position meant advancement was easy if you caught a content strategist’s notice. What didn’t settle with me was the skewed direction this attention commonly took. After working as a writer, contributing editor, and even part time editor in chief over the span of two years, I was passed up for promotion twice by two white females who held significantly less experience than me, one of which I unknowingly recommended to take my position. I hold nothing against either of these women, both whom I know to be brilliant writers and upcoming journalists. However, I hold enough knowledge over our individual levels of experience to know I have a right to feel slighted by the business as a whole.
While the writing on this source was never anything I would consider hard news or a serious career path, the treatment I received provided one of many instances during my time in college where I learned to persevere in the face of injustice, no matter how small it may be. I encourage you all to continue reading Odyssey articles, but perhaps don’t rely solely on the links you see trending on their account feed. I also hope writers with meaningful opinions will continue to join (with caution). I’ve witnessed the making of many great writers and social activists during my time as editor. Support the voices of the marginalized, for they rely on you to be heard.