By Katherine Tibedo
In his essay “The Storyteller,” Walter Benjamin asserts that storytelling is dying. He saw the death of storytelling as a symptom of a greater problem: people no longer appreciated experience, had become isolated and cut off from fellow humans. Benjamin wrote his essay at the end of World War I, but his beliefs and fears are echoed today. As we become more immersed in the digital world, I hear more and more people claim we are becoming isolated, that we don’t talk like we use to, that we don’t tell stories.
These views perplex me. Over the past four years, I have made my way as a storyteller: in marketing, in creative writing and in journalism. Even more, I see storytelling in every aspect of my life and the lives of those around me. I see stories passed across the dining hall tables, texted between classes, and whispered in the ears of friends. But I can understand the concerns about the death of storytelling.
When Benjamin said storytelling, he thought only of oral storytelling. He saw the loss of a world where men gathered around the table after a hard day and shared their experiences. He believed that as this died out, as men shied away from speaking in the wake of WWI, that storytelling as a whole would die. He saw death, where he should have looked for transformation, because storytelling is something integral for society. It connects us, in all its forms, to one another. It holds us together and moves the world forward.
In recent years, the art of storytelling has taken many forms. Its transformation has profoundly affected the media industry. The digital lifestyle has given journalists new challenges. How do we provide the knowledge people want in a way that fits in modern culture? How do we make the information people need stand out amongst the clutter? The future of the media is clouded in uncertainty; not so much its existence, but its form. Will sites like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post capture readers’ attentions to such an extent that the detailed journalism found in outlets like The New York Times fall by the wayside, stop being profitable, and die out?
To keep readers engaged in our stories, change is inevitable. We must be prepared as we move into the future to let go of practices we continue to do simply because we have always done them. We must be ready to take risks, to try new things, and to trust ourselves when others tell us our ideas will never work. We must be ready to change because change is coming and it is coming fast.
This year has been a year of change at The Daily Campus. We changed our look, our production process, our training procedures, our website, the structure of our editorial meetings and our Board structure. And more changes are coming. We’ve created a new executive position called the Digital Manager who oversees the new digital department that includes Daily Campus Video. We have changed the titles and pay of our ad staff, with account managers headed by a sales director. We have put in place new motivations for generating alternative revenue and have begun to look critically about our printing schedule. These are not small changes and bigger ones await us, I am sure of it. But we should not be afraid of change. We should embrace it.
Too often change is seen as threat. Every year we pour our soul into this paper. When we leave, it can be hard to have our vision challenged. I know the paper will continue to change after I leave. I sense that a year from now it will be a different paper from the one today. I know I will not agree with everything the new executives do, but my role is not judge. I am officially disconnected. I know less than those directly involved. It is my role to support the next generation, to be there when they seek advice, and to trust them when they do not.
This is my pledge. I pledge to be a resource to next year’s staff and all that come after. I pledge to never to judge their decisions before getting all the details. I pledge to offer only constructive remarks about the paper on social media. I pledge my continual support of the paper I love. I pledge to be a proud alumnus of The Daily Campus.