Millie von Platen
Last Thursday, Middlebury’s two-year-old satirical student publication The Local Noodle launched a successful first print issue. It positively flew off that heater right inside the entrance to Proc, a much-needed face shield for students looking to avoid eye contact with others but unwilling to risk being seen reading The Campus. As the editors of Middlebury’s “biggest waste of time and resources,” we would like to extend our warmest congratulations to “Middlebury’s only news source.” We need more student publications on campus, and the Noodle’s first print edition shows that it is possible for a small group of students to get together and produce an impactful publication.
In their inaugural editorial, the Noodle’s staff outlined their paper’s mission. “Though much of our coverage is comical,” they said, “the main purpose of our journalism is, and has always been, to identify and tackle the real problems here on Middlebury’s campus.”
Though The Local Noodle is not fact-based, it succeeded in using comedy and fiction to address important issues, like sexual assault culture within sports teams and disillusionment with the administration’s carbon neutrality promise, in a way that captures genuine sentiments shared by students. When The Campus tries to cover sensitive topics like sexual assault or the relationship between athlete recruitment and academic rigor, we run into reticent interviewees, data shortages and administrative roadblocks. On the other hand, when The Local Noodle makes up a fictional quotation or statistic, they may not be reporting real news, but their satire can bypass those difficulties and address dark aspects of our campus culture that often go unspoken or unproven but are accepted as realities by many students.
News, opinion, art and comedy must exist together to create an accurate record of student experiences at Middlebury. The Campus has been a part of this record for more than one hundred years. Our community’s contribution to Middlebury’s recorded history — and to the history of college life in the United States — will be incomplete if we do not leave a record of our true, uncensored and occasionally inappropriate thoughts (see: “Size does matter” article on theNoodle’s front page).
The main obstacle to creating an accurate and complete record of student experience is a lack of involvement in publications. The Campus sometimes struggles to find writers, and other publications do not receive enough submissions or have enough dedicated contributors to survive for long. Part of the responsibility rests with us, the editors of The Campus, and the editors of other publications, to be more proactive and inclusive. The Campus, The Local Noodle, Middlebury Geographic, Translingual Magazine and other publications are always looking for submissions, but we could do a better job of reaching out to younger students who we know to be thoughtful writers and invested community members.
Another problem limiting participation is that no publication besides The Campus has a designated workspace at Middlebury. Our Campus office in Hepburn certainly contributes to our permanence as an organization, and we want other publications to have the same access we do. The college could create a “publications hub” in McCullough to facilitate the growth and durability of student publications. It could have a large table for meetings and computers with design software for laying out pages and creating websites. Since no such space currently exists, The Campus has offered (and will continue to offer) help and advice to new student publications on how to navigate the print process.
Middlebury needs more healthy competition between its student publications. Students should have options in what they read, and a variety of publications helps ensure quality.
As Middlebury’s oldest publication, The Campus is often seen as part of the college’s “establishment,” which we acknowledge makes some students hesitant to share their stories with us. Ideally, all students would be able to find their voices reflected in a student publication. Other notable publications, including Beyond the Green, MiddBlog, MiddBeat, The Crampus, The Idle Times and others have risen to fill niches that some students have felt The Campus cannot, but most have fizzled out as the students behind them have graduated.
It’s important to have humor represented in a publication, and this “you-know-what rag” can tell you that this is sometimes at one’s own expense. Especially in this political climate, reading humor pieces can be a welcome reprieve from the seemingly constant barrage of political turmoil.
We are excited to praise The Local Noodle for their first issue. As a publication that has been printing dozens of issues each year for decades, we understand the difficulty of putting out a publication, and we want to make it easier for other publications to endure for future generations of students. Putting a lot of work into an issue, whether factual or funny, is worthwhile and rewarding. Doing so takes a lot of time and energy from dedicated people, and we hope that more students can experience that satisfaction.