It sounds special. Can you tell us a little about your role at the paper?
I started at The Cynic during the fall semester of my sophomore year as a culture writer. I really fell in love with culture writing—
—because of the possibilities for different types of stories you could write in that section. My junior year I became the culture editor. I did that for a year until I transitioned into my current role of co-Editor-in-Chief, which I’ll be doing alongside my partner, Grace Visco, who was the former opinion section editor. It’s already proving to be a tremendous amount of work, but I have a really fantastic team of editors and I’m really excited to see what we can get done.
Do you know the history and evolution of The Cynic?
It started back in 1883, but was originally titled The University Cynic and more closely resembled a literary magazine than a traditional newspaper. It evolved into what it is today in the early 1900s and served as UVM students’ main source of global news for about the next hundred years, until the internet was able to offer more comprehensive coverage of worldwide events. The Cynic stopped printing during the COVID-19 pandemic and switched to completely online, then when things with the university started ramping back up to in-person, we went with a hybrid model of printing and digital. Last year, we decided to make the switch to completely digital for the foreseeable future.
Like so many community newspapers, we decided it just wasn’t worth the cost and effort for an increasingly online readership.
What is the newspaper’s main focus and purpose these days?
The main focus of the paper is based in community. I mean both internally, giving our staff a place to develop their skills and showcase their talents, as well as work towards a common goal, and also in the broader sense, serving the community by providing unbiased information about what is happening and what people are thinking.
A lot of that for me, as the former culture editor, has been focused around art and joy. The fact that UVM is a place where people are doing such fun and adventurous things—from starting bands to creating new clubs—is really wonderful. A lot of the news we consume is focused on heavy and difficult topics and, of course, they need a space to be brought to our attention, but there’s also a lot of value in saying “this is your community, these are the people doing amazing things, we’re making the time to celebrate them.”
Oh yes, that is so true!
That being said, we’re also focused on uncovering injustices in our community. If the administration breaks a promise or violates students rights, we’re the ones who report on that. It’s up to us to make sure those things come to light. If people don’t know what’s going on, there’s no pathway toward justice.
Is The Cynic truly independent?
We are completely independent. We get money from the school allotted through the Student Government Association, and we have a student media advisor, but nobody outside of the team of student editors has any prior review of articles. Nobody tells us what to report on or has the capacity to block us from publishing a story. That editorial independence is really critical to the mission of our organization. It has allowed us to really hold the feet of UVM’s administration to the fire and challenge what’s happening on campus without having to worry that the doors to our newsroom will close as a result.
That’s so good to hear because that kind of freedom isn’t a given. Have book banning, censorship, education challenges, and politics in general affected the paper?
One of my biggest fears is that students will be worried about being honest in their columns. I think, in general, there’s a shift happening on college campuses toward groupthink and people not voicing their opinions for fear of being called out. A really important pillar of The Cynic is our commitment to free speech, and of course this is nuanced and there are things we won’t tolerate and give a platform to, but the reality is that UVM, like our country, is made up of people of all different identities and beliefs. We need to be able to tolerate people having a different perspective in order to make progress, and if people who might see things differently feel like they can’t voice their opinions, it will lead to further polarization and push people toward extremism.
Making it so people aren’t comfortable voicing their opinions doesn’t mean those people and those opinions disappear, it means that the discourse through which we can understand each other and reach common ground erodes. To me, that is scary and I’m not sure how to really make sure people know that even if I, on a personal level, disagree with what you’re arguing, The Cynic and I (as co-Editor-in-Chief) are committed to letting you articulate yourself. I think that’s the biggest shift that I have noticed, a lack of tolerance for different ideas as the political climate has gotten more contentious and polarizing.
Why do you think a college newspaper is vital to a college campus (and beyond)?
Without newspapers like us, we lose a sense of community. I think a lot of feelings of despair and hopelessness come from this constant flow of global media that we consume. There are a lot of terrible things happening in the world that we don’t have a lot of control over, but you absolutely can make a difference in your own backyard. For that to happen, though, you need to know what's going on. That’s why I would say community media and college newspapers are so vital, they give you a place to start the conversation and open up discourse that leads to change.
Perfectly said. Thank you. And finally, Eamon, what does the word adventure mean to you? And do you see your work with The Cynic as adventurous?
The word adventure means braving the unknown. Adventure is all about taking risks and embracing uncertainty, all while having fun. I think the work I do with The Cynic is extremely adventurous! Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. People might react strongly to an article we publish, there might be a piece of breaking news or we might get a tip that unfolds into something really shocking. Anything could happen, and it’s really exciting.
Thank you, Eamon!