Open Letter to Campus from The Duquesne Duke

08/27/20

Dear Duquesne Students, Staff and Faculty,

It goes without saying that this has been an unbelievably challenging time for all of us in the Duquesne community. In a matter of six short months, our world has changed more times than any of us can count. Moments we took for granted — eating at restaurants, going to the movies, seeing a friend’s smiling face in person — have completely changed for the foreseeable future.

We know this year has been a time of great uncertainty, anxiety, political unrest and fear of the unknown. In the past six months, we’ve watched our university close, seen supplies at the grocery store dwindle, said goodbye to loved ones far too soon and heard the global cries for racial justice. This year has been incredibly difficult for all of us, but we at The Duke see a silver lining to all this.

When the world changes, we have the unique opportunity to challenge ourselves to change with it.

Like so many campus organizations, we had to close our doors once the university moved online this spring. However, we remained confident that we would find a way to not only restart, but also grow our news coverage come fall. With that in mind, we applied for the College Media Project through the renowned Poynter Institute of Journalism in March. The College Media Project is an award that funds select college news organizations to pursue a large, overarching story or theme for one year.

To our surprise and delight, The Duke was one of 10 student papers from across the country chosen to receive this honor.

In early May, when we learned the good news, our editorial staff began to discuss the primary focus of our story. For us, the choice was clear: We need to dedicate all the resources gained through this award to increasing our coverage of Duquesne’s Black community.

We have noticed that the Black community of Pittsburgh has been frequently overlooked by the news media — regrettably, including us.

For the times we failed to properly invest our time, efforts and resources into telling the essential stories of the Black community in the past, we would like to ask for forgiveness. We at The Duke recognize and acknowledge our role in the fight against racism. Racism and discrimination have no place at Duquesne, especially at The Duke.

The Duke has been a staple of student life for the past 95 years, and it is our mission to continue this legacy of storytelling as your local journalists.

When we applied for this project, we had no idea the new relevance it would take on as the summer progressed. As we watched scenes of civil rights and racial justice protests from our hometowns and our college town, we knew we had made the right choice.

The time is now to do our part in addressing inequality in news coverage. This year, we are turning a new leaf. The Duke is committed to accurately, honestly and effectively telling the stories of the Black community.

Still, we realize this is not something we can do alone. As a predominantly white university and predominantly white newsroom, we recognize that we cannot cover these stories without immersing ourselves in the Black community.

It is for this reason that we are honored to announce our ongoing partnership with Duquesne’s Black Student Union. Together, we hope to build a relationship based on trust with the common goal of ensuring the Black community of Duquesne feels seen, heard, respected and valued.

We hope to achieve this through a minimum of one story featuring the Black community per week. Because the Black experience does not stop with news coverage, these stories may appear in any of our sections. Our aim is to provide our campus with a well-rounded, robust and honest depiction of the triumphs, struggles, art, culture and daily life of Duquesne’s Black community.

While we realize this is an ambitious plan, moving forward, we ask that you, our readers and our community, hold us to this high standard.

Most importantly, we want the Duquesne community to know this is more than just a year long project. For us, this is a permanent, institutional change. The Duke is to be a safe haven for students, staff and faculty to tell their stories. We want to be an organization that is attuned to Duquesne’s minority communities and fosters growth for the next generation of Black journalists and storytellers.

At The Duke, Black lives mattering is the bare minimum. Here, Black lives and Black voices are respected, valued and wanted.

May we be worthy of the task ahead of us.

 

Sincerely,

The Duke Editorial Staff