by, Megan Dreher, Senior Writer
If a journalist is known to have any talent, it is surely their ability to adapt to fast-paced, ever changing situations with accuracy and ease. The Quadrangle and its journalists are no exception. The work of a journalist stops at nothing to bring news to their readers, even when the world around them is shutting down.
Working as a weekly publication on Manhattan’s campus, the paper has run in print since 1924 and is currently publishing its eleventh volume under the tenure of Gabriella DePinho ‘21 who took the reins in January of 2020. DePinho and her staff had much on the horizon that they were set to accomplish, but no one expected that their time together would be cut short for the spring semester.
As a global pandemic rapidly approached, hitting New York City especially hard as one of the COVID-19 epicenters of the United States, Manhattan College made the decision to move all classes online on March 9, 2020 until the end of March, and later amended that decision to remain online for the duration of the semester. In accordance with these cancellations, all on campus activities–sporting events, club meetings and college sponsored events, were cancelled as well. While students said their goodbyes and closed chapters in their books, The Quadrangle team picked up their pens and kept writing.
As students, The Quadrangle staff suffered losses, hardships and difficulty transitioning to online platforms of learning just as everyone else affected by the pandemic.
“I definitely did not expect this challenge to come my way, and the prospect of online learning was difficult to swallow,” said Alexa Schmidt ‘21, The Quadrangle’s Arts and Entertainment Editor and a Managing Editor. “Losing quality time with friends and teammates was honestly devastating. Everything that everyone was looking forward to slipped through our fingers with absolutely no warning. It was bittersweet to have to end our year that way.”
Some members of the staff even had foresight of the college’s closure from a journalistic standpoint. Pete Janny ‘22, Sports Editor and Managing Editor of the Quadrangle had followed the pandemic unfold and watched other colleges and universities close. He ultimately knew Manhattan would follow suit.
“I think Manhattan College made the right call by taking the same approach as other schools in the area,” Janny said. “I had written an article for The Quad about the virus just a week or two prior to the news, and from the research that I did, I figured that online classes were a possibility. Quickly after finding out, I had a lot of thoughts rushing through my mind about my classes, my friends, my family and The Quad. I had a bad sense that our lives were going to change for a lot longer than initially projected, and as a journalist, I did start to wonder how it would affect my writing routine.”
Despite the uncertainty, Depinho and her team insisted on continuing to operate the publication as it always has, by the students for the college community. She wrote in a statement put out by The Quadrangle’s Instagram account on March 11 that the paper was not “shutting down,” rather they were “adapting.”
“It is a challenge for us to prove to you, our dear readers, our commitment to delivering the news to you in a timely fashion,” DePinho said in her statement. “It is a challenge for us to get creative in our reporting and storytelling. It is a challenge for us to rise and be the best we can be.”
Since then, The Quadrangle has exclusively operated through digital means. Stories are updated on the newspaper’s website in a timely fashion in efforts to keep readers up to date and informed on current Manhattan College news. Though the school is operating remotely, the stories never stop.
Reflecting back on this decision to operate as an online-exclusive platform, DePinho admits that her motive stemmed from self-preservation of a title she worked hard to obtain.
“One thing that I was continuously excited about that I felt like I was losing was being Editor-in-Chief of The Quadrangle,” DePinho said. “I had worked so hard to prove myself a worthy leader to my peers and I was getting the hang of this thing and then I was being asked to figure it out all over again. All the editors-in-chief before me got to leave MC with a full portfolio of every issue they published and I don’t get that. If we’re not back in person in the fall, I get eight issues and a lot of saved web links. I’ll be honest, part of my passion in keeping us running online was with a selfish motivation because I had worked so hard that I refused to be Editor-in-Chief of nothing, or a non-operating publication.”
But that drive and determination is what has kept the publication afloat while journalists, including DePinho herself, continue to write stories remotely. She turned her fear and frustration into action, and called upon her staff to do the same.
“I kept telling my family I didn’t care if I would be the only one writing, we were going to have a publication, the Quaddies, I was going to be Editor-in-Chief of a functioning publication, even if it was sinking and I was the last person standing,” DePinho said. “I don’t know if that’s super selfish of me but I almost don’t care that I was being selfish because being angry and upset fueled me to action, rather than just being sad and mopey. If I hadn’t had that reaction, I don’t know how successful of a leader I would have been for the staff right now.”
This online platform has presented some of its own challenges. Roles have taken new form, some have gotten more demanding, and some have mellowed. But all remain essential.
As an editor, Schmidt has acknowledged that her responsibilities to the paper have changed. She has pointed to a new transparency that is present between all members of a functioning paper, but she also admits that the missing puzzle piece in the operation is what she misses most.
“Since moving online, communication between the EIC, other section editors and writers needed to be completely transparent,” Schmidt said. “Getting things done online is just not the same as doing them in person. Obviously, we aren’t putting out a print copy of the newspaper, so that relieves me of some responsibilities. However, I will say it’s also one of the things that I miss.”
Janny echoed these sentiments, describing the difficulties in covering sports stories remotely, especially with no spring sporting events to cover. But, he noted that there were more valuable lessons to be learned throughout this situation that everyone has had to face. The demand to meet deadlines quickly transformed into the desire to stay connected with his writers, ensuring health and safety during this tumultuous time.
“Sadly, I have not had as much to do for The Quad in terms of editing and writing,” Janny said. “In the beginning of quarantine, I was really pleased to see that there was still interest from my peers in writing about sports. The stories that arrived in my inbox were very good and I enjoyed editing them and reading them. As the weeks went on and this situation grew worse, I had trouble getting pitches taken, which is completely understandable. I hope I did enough to stay engaged with my fellow journalists and to make sure that they were getting enough opportunities to write. But at the end of the day, what I knew was most important was being supportive and interested in their own personal lives. We all love writing, but during a time like this, it was more about friendship and good health.”
Katie Heneghan ‘22 currently serves alongside Madalyn [Maddie] Johnson ‘22 as Web Editor for the publication. In addition to working as an essential worker at a coffee shop at home, she has seen an uptick in her duties for The Quadrangle, especially in regards to timeliness.
“I am currently responsible for making sure stories get online as soon as possible after being sent to me,” Heneghan said. “I monitor our views and see which stories drive the most traffic to the website. As an online-only publication, it’s important that stories are posted in a timely manner.”
This experience, while difficult to navigate, has staffers such as Heneghan noting how their perspectives have changed in regards to the roles and responsibilities of The Quadrangle, and those of journalists on a global scale.
“Usually, with everyone on campus, I am able to meet with people in person, approach students on the Quad or in Lockes and interview them, but that has completely changed,” Heneghan said. “We are all now reaching out to students and staff and various sources spread out across the country, and I am truly amazed how quickly our journalists have adapted to this transition in order to produce amazing content.”
DePinho credits the paper’s continued success online to her masthead, the team of journalists she organized to hold editorial positions back in December when she began her tenure.
“I managed to make this work solely because of Alexa, Pete, Christine, Maria, Katie, Maddie and even Garrett,” DePinho said. “If it were not for their dedication to running their sections, uploading content to the web and using our social media effectively, nothing I could have done or would have done would have made any difference. I think my passion was a driving force in keeping us all on track, but beyond that, I can only take credit for the few stories I wrote. They’re the ones who did everything from pitching story ideas, to editing, to posting online and getting the word out. I am truly so incredibly amazed by them and so grateful for them.”
She also credits the success to the dedicated journalists who have continued writing stories solely because they enjoy doing so.
“A lot of people have expressed gratitude that I’ve kept this running or have told me that I’ve done a great job, but it hasn’t been without the hard work of a lot of dedicated people who love doing journalism, telling stories and writing history and so the whole staff needs to be recognized for absolutely rocking this transition,” DePinho said.
Though there is no “I” in “team” and there has been quite a bit of teamwork happening to keep The Quadrangle alive and well, DePinho notes that the biggest lesson she has learned is the capacity to care for oneself in a time of crisis.
“I hope the whole staff takes away the same things I’ve learned from this, that it’s okay to be a little selfish sometimes and put yourself first,” DePinho said. “I am grateful for everyone who continued to write, for their continued dedication and enthusiasm. I’m just as grateful for the people who needed to put their mental health first and stop writing for the semester because I really value people who understand themselves and their limits and I could really learn from them. Every person– whether they wrote a lot online or not at all– has been part of the team that has made us such a respectable paper on campus and without them, our credibility online wouldn’t stand.”
While social distancing might have prevented journalists from gathering at weekly meetings or at production lasting well into Sunday nights, or even members of the MC community grabbing a copy of The Quadrangle on their way to class, DePinho hopes that the message of The Quad and all the organization stands for still rings true for writers and readers far and wide.
“Being part of The Quadrangle is about being part of something bigger than yourself– you’re part of a team and you’re a part of the campus community in such a unique way,” DePinho said. “And at the end of the day, whether you can’t hit a deadline or you’re writing thousands of words a week, you are never alone in this whole process. You have people who will help you out in a pinch, people who will praise you when you’ve done a good job, people who will guide you when you’re feeling lost, readers looking forward to your coverage and people looking to you to write and tell the stories of the MC community. You are valuable to the paper. You are valuable to the community. You are valuable to me.”
In her last line of the original statement sent to followers of The Quadrangle’s Instagram account, DePinho wrote, “We will not stop doing journalism.” The pandemic may persevere, but The Quadrangle will too.