Letter from the (Incoming) Editor: Stability amid “institutional amnesia”

Spencer Tordoff / Web Editor

Open to a random page in the Sun Star archives and you’re likely to find an article that could have been written yesterday. Be it the “Polar Star” editorial complaining about ASUAF in 1974, a 1980 “Northern Sun” piece about Title IX disputes or a 1997 edition of the “Fun Star” lampooning the quality of water on campus, many of the events we cover at UAF today have been issues for a long, long time.

But as the curvature of the earth is invisible to us at human scale, so are we as students often unable to see how our school’s history curves back upon itself. What I describe as “institutional amnesia” runs rampant, with our clubs and governance groups’ recollection spanning only as far back as their longest-serving member. Policies and formats change with every new set of leaders, and the Sun Star is a prime example, having gone through four masthead logos in three years. In this continuous shuffle, it can be hard to maintain consistent quality from year to year, much less execute ambitious plans for improvement.

This year, Danny Fisher, our editor-in-chief, set a high standard for the design and content of the Sun Star, and it paid dividends. Your student newspaper started this year in a state of disarray and concluded it as 2015’s second-best weekly paper in the state; not a bad turnaround for four months. But it’s not unprecedented, and in other years such progress might be lost completely, tossed aside by an incoming editor with no particular ties to previous leadership, bringing in an entirely new staff.

Last week, I was selected as the editor-in-chief of the Sun Star for the 2016-2017 school year. While I bring my own ideas and excitement to the role, more than anything I’m excited for the chance to continue what Danny started. The Sun Star is a learning environment, but we can nevertheless be held to high standards for accuracy, accountability and quality—standards that made us win awards over professional papers across the state this year. With hard work from Copy Editor Kyrie Long and Layout Editor Molly Putman, the rules we use to edit the papers’ content and put it into print are being recorded and refined for use by future Sun Star leadership.

Though some of our staff will be moving on from campus, we’ll be retaining most of our current team, seeking to bridge past leadership with enthusiastic new talent. With a little assistance from ASUAF, we may even expand our writing and multimedia capabilities, helping us to keep pace with the shifting landscape of the University of Alaska. And, thanks to outgoing Distribution and Archives Manager Lida Zakurdaew, our back issues are in the process of being digitized so we can look back for perspective when needed.

Of course, all this work could be just as easily tossed out by a future leader. But it is my fervent belief that with careful planning, and support from the student body (that’s you!), we’ll be able to make the Sun Star a strong voice for the UAF community, and a source of perspective for those without the benefit of decades spent on campus. With your help, your student newspaper can be our school’s institutional memory and help to keep us from chasing our tail in circles—now and in the future.

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