By Dr. Hilary Donatini
Emily Kaiser, a junior English and Creative Writing major talked with me about her adventures in online writing and editing. The interview is below.
Q: Could you explain the general purpose of the entire Odyssey website and who is eligible to post?
A: Odyssey is a website built on the exploration of new opinions. Oftentimes, the media reports the exact same story with very little variation. Odyssey opens up an outlet for college students to express their opinions on the happenings on the world. Our staff is comprised of students of diverse majors, interests, and backgrounds, united by the desire to share their opinions. Not every article is news-based--in fact, very few of our stories reflect breaking news. But the articles posted by our staff do give a little snapshot of what matters to the students of our campus and college campuses all over the nation.
Odyssey feeds on our society's hunger for social media. That is how it all begins--our Facebook page shares each article, and each writer shares their own article. That's it. From there, people will click on the article, read it, and hopefully share it. There is no marketing to speak of; we can only hope that our friends like our writing enough to share it. Surprisingly, they do: we even have one article (written by the talented Sami Holzman) that is up to 77,000 shares in five days. Not views--shares. That is an absolutely huge readership for an article that was only promoted through unsolicited word-of-mouth.
In order to post on Odyssey regularly, you need to be a member of the staff. It's a simple application process, and it requires little more than 500 words and a little bit of excitement. Go to http://theodysseyonline.com/apply/ for more information.
Q: How did you decide to start an AU site and what steps did you take to do so?
A: I actually had nothing to do with the start-up of our branch. Gabby Ater, one of our lovely Contributing Editors, was the one who set this train in motion. She had noticed a plethora of Odyssey articles on her Facebook news feed, so she poked around on their main website until she found a way to request a new branch here at AU. A few days later, a representative from the New York office began contacting department chairs and administrative assistants to send out information on applications. The rest is history.
Q: What kinds of writing can appear on the site?
A: Because the website's success is measured in shares and views, we are often conforming to the fads of social media: open letters, listicles, and opinion pieces tend to be the go-to styles. We do, however, have a sports writer who covers big games and events, and quite a few people take advantage of this opportunity to comment on politics and current events. There is a pretty wide variety within the site--only fiction pieces are off-limits.
Q: Do you consider this a journalism site, or is the site doing something different?
A: I would consider it to be new-age journalism. It's not quite the hard-hitting communication that we tend to associate with the word journalism, but it certainly communicates the thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants of our generation. The marketing strategy of the site rests solely on the shoulders of social media, so it is our job to engage Facebook scrollers to stop, click, and read--just like any journalism site. Every writer wants his or her work to be read, and our team is no different. We want our voices to be heard. We may not always be commenting on the world at large, but we are illustrating what is important to the millennial generation through our work.
Q: What else would you like to share?
A: If you would like to see our articles regularly, please like our page on Facebook: Odyssey at Ashland University. The best way to show support is to read our work.