Section: Opinion

Students need direct access to local news

When I was a student in Professor Emeritus of Sociology Howard Sacks’s Life Along the Kokosing course, my classmates and I analyzed the contents of the Mount Vernon News weekly. One student would read through the newspaper every day it was printed and select a trend within the week’s articles to present. By analyzing the newspaper, we learned a lot about Knox County, from its community festivals to its experience with and response to the ongoing heroin epidemic.

Because of the access my sociology class gave me to Knox County politics, I managed to establish contacts off campus and became attuned to local issues early in my time as a Kenyon student. However, I’ve noticed that since losing access to the Mount Vernon News, which was delivered in print to the porch of Treleaven House each morning, I  struggle to keep up with current events in the community.

I faced this problem most directly while writing about Gibbs Watch, a local, left-leaning political organization made up of Kenyon faculty and students as well as Knox County residents. I discovered online that Mount Vernon News had written an article on the group. Curious to see how Gibbs Watch had been portrayed to the greater Knox community, I clicked on the article, only to be stopped three lines in by a paywall  telling me to subscribe to Mount Vernon News to continue reading.

I then realized the effect that Kenyon’s administrative decisions have on our unsteady relationship with the rest of Knox County. Sure, we are a largely liberal student body living in a majority conservative county. But does that mean we have to remain aloof from the people just beyond our campus? Of course, this is a question that many students and faculty members have sought to address through various classes, community outreach programs and service opportunities.

I’m a firm believer that we cannot engage with our surrounding area effectively and without condescension unless we understand its social and cultural layout. The community connections I made in my sociology course  have been useful to me as a features editor for this paper, and I almost always have contacts when I pursue an article that looks beyond the Kenyon bubble.

Every day, students grab copies of The New York Times as they pass in and out of Peirce. Often, it is only to do the crossword puzzle, but they have the choice to read through each section or glance over the front page if they wish. Most of us have some app on our phone that gives us news updates on our nation and world. However, I doubt that any of us regularly read up on local current events.

This isn’t all our fault. I can attest to the fact that it takes time and money to access news from Knox County. That being said, it could be highly beneficial for our college to purchase a subscription for Kenyon students to the Mount Vernon News in addition to the Times. Most of us are aware of the unfavorable view many residents in Mount Vernon and surrounding towns have of us.

Privilege can often lead college students to be ignorant of their local area, and perhaps our lack of awareness regarding the lives of those surrounding us suggests that there is some truth to the association. By gaining the opportunity to read about Knox County every day, we could learn a lot more about the area in which we live and root ourselves more firmly in that community.

Dora Segall ’20 is a sociology and American studies major from Bethesda, Md. You can contact her at segall1@kenyon.edu.

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