One year ago, The Undergraduate Times was started as a publication. There were very few people involved: some close friends from high school, a friend I met over Facebook through my college group, one of her friends from high school and two debate friends. Back then, we barely knew what we wanted The Undergraduate Times to be: we often referred to it as a “Journal” and mostly concentrated on the monthly issue. We bickered about the name – The Undergraduate Insider and The Undergraduate Post being the two main rivals. We had a mini, and somewhat cute, schism, breaking into two groups and later joining back together for the most part. But overall, we just wanted to start something before college and thought it would be neat to make something we felt was missing at the time.
The growth after that was really exciting. We went from a few ‘academic’college-paper-oriented articles to central news. We published a satire piece. We published politics. We wrote about feminism. We started creating applications as the freelance writer system started growing unsustainable and unorganized. We needed editors, and so we ended up making a group of editors, originally separated by section. We needed to market, so we formed a mini-marketing squad, which over the summer rivaled the size of the rest of the publication put together. We made cute little ads with our ‘U’ logo and we kept recruiting.
It was an amazing summer. The publication built up hype; we were recording over five to ten thousand views at times per day and met so many people through the process. But it was a difficult task in the months to come when everyone needed to move into college and didn’t have time, understandably, to contribute.
August, September, October – those were the roughest months. I remember running thin extraordinarily fast on material to publish, and a few weeks in, our volume of published material dropped sixfold. It was primarily my fault that we took in such a shock driven change: I had optimism that running a publication would be easy alongside college, but with all the commitments of clubs, rushing for Greek life and stress over class, many people couldn’t keep up. At first it was frustrating, but soon I realized that this was a necessary step of this project; staying involved with a new startup publication based entirely online seemed to be unjustifiable with the amazing frenzy going on around.
We managed to pull through, however. There were many times I wanted to call quits: I can’t even count them on the fingers of my hand. I didn’t join any clubs or student groups to try to stay focused on The Undergraduate Times. Day in and day out, it was a question of how many articles we had left to publish. It was difficult, because I soon found my transition to college wasn’t full of getting into the scene, but rather trying to pull The Undergraduate Times into it.
It was around December that we, as a group, made a shift that saved us. We diverted our focus away from quantity-oriented statistics: page views and article output rate. Yes, in the end, that was what everyone asked about; how many views do you get each month or each day. But we had grown very, very distracted from our original goal. And as I saw other publications, those of much grander size, slowly lose focus of their original strong and researched journalism in return for click-bait, spam-oriented reads, I realized we, at way too young of an age, were falling into that same trap.
So we pulled the plug on meeting a quota of articles per day. We focused on our structure and our mission. We were a voice for undergraduates. We turned our eyes away from competing publications, which originally we aimlessly viewed as ‘our rivals,’ and moved towards fostering something more important: quality content. We run on a multitude of Facebook groups – so many, that Facebook once banned me for ‘suspicious posting into groups’ for eighteen days, a time when I made a fake Facebook account to continue to communicate. It was around late December that we witnessed a heart-warming search of author interaction, critique and suggestions within one of our groups.
What I take from The Undergraduate Times, being one year in, are many things. There are the general, warming statements you hear often: there is hope even during adversity, keep trying until you succeed, etc. etc. But this wasn’t something where ‘I’ saved it by any means. It was rather the human understanding of all of those involved slowly helping us pull through, realizing that a dream or mission is only possible if we kept pushing for a larger dream or mission. I honestly, back in October, felt that The Undergraduate Times would be gone in a month or so. But here we are, one year later, still alive.
For those trying to start publications or other endeavors, keep trying. A necessary inhibition is the hard work, dedication and almost inevitable skepticism that follows. The reward isn’t always fulfilling. We were hoping for ten thousand followers on Facebook by now; we reached just seven thousand. We wanted to be outputting five articles a day; we are doing just under one (though slowly growing in that respect). And we wanted to be in about fifty colleges – well that, we just managed to achieve.
The Undergraduate Times isn’t a great thing – at least not yet. And we could admit we didn’t go 100% and turn around, put down our pens (or typing fingers in this case) and stop writing. I could concentrate, personally, on my other endeavors and school, namely. But why stop when we have more potential to reach our old goal from last year this coming year?
To our constant readers: thank you. You, even if represented in a statistic or comment count, gave us the inspiration to power on.