Writing For Odyssey Isn't Journalism

Writing For Odyssey Isn't Journalism

All we want is the chance for our voices to be heard.
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Before I started writing for Odyssey, I held a lot of judgments against it. I would always see those "Open Letter To My Ex/Best Friend/Mom/Sister/Etc." articles on my Facebook news feed and roll my eyes at the cliche topics and unoriginal clickbait headlines. I also had a personal vendetta against all the Odyssey posts I saw that seemed to be trying to report on actual news. I thought, a college student from Middleofnowhere University in Nebraska thinks they have the capacity to write a fully-fleshed article about our country's political climate? I'm sure.

So, right now you're probably thinking, "bro, if you hated it so much, why did you join?"

Well, Internet stranger, I'm glad you asked.

I've always enjoyed writing, but I could never seem to stick to it. I would start dozens of short stories, but never finish them. I would try to make myself write every day, even if it was just a daily reflection, but all I was left with was a collection of half-used journals.

I had a few friends who had written for Odyssey, and they had nothing but good things to say about it. You could write about whatever you wanted, you only have to submit one article a week, and if you were lucky enough, you could even get paid for articles that went "viral." Eventually, I started to understand the appeal of writing for the wannabe-news platform.

After considering for awhile, I joined Odyssey. I figured it would be an easy extracurricular to throw on my resume, and that maybe having a weekly deadline would be the push I needed to start taking my writing more seriously.

I can tell you now that I was right about half of that statement. Having a weekly deadline keeps me on top of my writing and has helped my creativity to flourish. It hasn't, however, been anywhere near easy. It's difficult to think creatively all the time and to force yourself to organize all your jumbled thoughts into coherent pieces of writing. These past seven-or-so months have pushed me to open my mind, expand my comfort zone, and explore all the facets writing and literature have to offer.

In my time here, I have come to love Odyssey and everything it stands for. My premonitions about the site weren't incorrect -- Odyssey is not a news source, and writing for it isn't "real" journalism. But it doesn't need to be, and it's never claimed to be. Odyssey is simply a place where everyone has a voice.

Whether that voice is used to make funny listicles about The Office, or to call for the protection of transgender students (both of which I have done in my time here), the objective is the same: to be heard.

Our editors don't reject articles they disagree with or try to police what we can and can't write about. Each week, every Odyssey creator has the opportunity to write about their own thoughts, opinions, and interests. They have the chance to use their voice and open up conversations. And that is what Odyssey is to me: a safe place for expression and discussion.

I never regret my choice to write for Odyssey. I know there are people who hold the same judgments that I had before joining, but I think the important distinction to make is that Odyssey creators are well-aware that writing for a college blogging site doesn't make us journalists. We are nothing more than a group of creative thinkers and passionate writers who want the chance to hear others and to be heard.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It Angers Me When People Use Labels In The Wrong Context, Because A Person's Identity Isn't A Joke

Put yourself in their shoes.

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It was more than half way through fourth period. I had finished my test and turned it in but there were some people working till the bell. Once the bell rang, everyone turned in their test and started to head out. I started to walk out the door when I heard a voice ask someone, "How was the test?" Instead of the person replying that it was hard, eh or easy, I heard the most absurd answer that I didn't even know existed as an answer choice to a simple question like this: "It was so gay."

I instantly paused and had a confused look on my face. What? How is a test gay? It was the craziest thing I've ever heard.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the first time I've heard "gay" being used in the wrong context, along with other labels like "retard." It's completely unacceptable for someone to use labels like "gay" or "retard" in the wrong context because you may have no idea what it's like to have a personal label you identify with being used offhandedly or negatively.

The definition of retardation, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary is "an abnormal slowness of thought or action," while mental retardation is "sub-average intellectual ability equivalent to or less than an IQ of 70 that is accompanied by significant deficits in abilities necessary for independent daily functioning."

Unfortunately, this means that people are sometimes born with certain disabilities. We shouldn't be calling people this as an insult without knowing what the word means and the gravity of its meaning.

Using these words in an incorrect way develops a negative connotation around them.

It can be offensive to anyone associated with these words and destroys the true meaning of them. What I've realized is that a lot of people use the words wrongly because "everyone else does" and because "everyone does," people think it's okay that they do too, even though it's not.

When people use these terms in the wrong context and specifically mean it in a negative connotation, it really angers me. What has our society become to be throwing around powerful identity words like they mean nothing? It's 2018 now. People should grow to be more accepting and use labels correctly so we respect all humans equally. We aren't supposed to be isolating certain people because they have different beliefs or were born different than us.

Our society as a whole should communicate well, and instead of hurting people, show love to everyone because no one can have too much love. If we always think about what we're saying before saying it, the world would become a better place.

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