Editorial: They Don’t Want Us, But They Need Us

This week, The Amsterdammer celebrated its 100th publication. We have reached this milestone after seven months, two semesters, and sixty staff members, I could not be prouder of what it has become. Like any nascent start-up we certainly faced (far) more obstacles than we expected. However, it is with hard work and dedication that the Amsterdammer continues to publish on a daily basis and to build a reputation.

Even before this newspaper’s founding in March, I had a 35-hour a week internship, I was part of ISN’s Public Relations Committee, and I was a full-time student. Did I really have time to create and manage The Amsterdammer? Absolutely not. Would I do it all over again? Definitely.

I could not wait for the right time to start this newspaper. I could not wait for things to settle down in order to be fully focused on this project. Truth be told, we can never be truly dedicated to a single project anyways, but we still have to do our best to make it work. After our first stories were published, I explained how The Amsterdammer was created out of necessity. I stand by every word: a university needs a student newspaper, a student-run newspaper.

Earlier this year, I interviewed Haley Woods – the founder of the Facebook group “Girls LOVE Travel,” which produces daily content for over 600,000 members and counting. As Haley reminisced about how she started it all, she told me she had been looking at different groups that fit her interests in Facebook but “didn’t have a sense of community.” So, she created a group that did – evidently a lot of other people were looking for the same. This is something that resonated with me: if you want something that isn’t there, you do it. And that’s exactly what I did.

“Our university needed students with different perspectives to create a voice for the voiceless.”

The Amsterdammer certainly filled a void. We started with a staff almost entirely composed of bachelor students in communication science – now we have recruited Master and PhD students from more than ten different majors. Our university needed students with different perspectives to create a voice for the voiceless. Because that’s what we were – non-Dutch speakers with limited opportunities. Seven short months ago we could only write for our faculty magazine for which we can only cover topics from our field of studies. Now we finally have a platform.

Despite The Amsterdammer’s growing success and popularity, the University of Amsterdam refused to provide us with financial assistance similar to what other student publications and organizations receive. Some student associations have fought hard to tear us down, fearing the unknown. This didn’t stop us from pursuing our goals, but it has shown us that sometimes you just have to do it on your own if you think it’s worth the fight.

Unfortunately, independent student-run newspapers are very rare in Europe – I have not found any outside of the United Kingdom. Universities like UvA have chosen to stick with tradition and refuse to accept opportunities for practical experience as an effective learning tool. This is where they are wrong. I spent over a year with the Independent Florida Alligator – once the largest student-run newspaper in the United States – and had the opportunity to cover rallies for Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and photograph sensitive events such as the aftermath of a terrorist attack. My brief tenure at the Alligator taught me more about journalism than any amount of schooling has been able to. Theory certainly doesn’t win over practice, but neither of them truly succeeds in preparing us for the future if they are taught on their own. They complement each other.

“Theory certainly doesn’t win over practice, but neither of them truly succeeds in preparing us for the future if they are taught on their own. They complement each other.”

Universities around the world should encourage students to be proactive, creators, and especially, seekers of the truth. We are taught that studying hard will make us successful, but there’s so much more to it. The truth is that dreams are not a goal, but a work-in-progress.

My hope is, that as The Amsterdammer grows, we will help reconcile the UvA’s divorced teaching technique with our monthly workshops, our courses, and the most useful learning tool we have – working experience.

We have produced over 100 publications – the university, other student organizations, or a busy schedule will never stop us.

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