“And I am learning that writing truthfully and emotionally about my own experiences often resonates with readers the most.”
By Lindsay Hand
Being a young millennial is a truly unique experience. Born in the mid-90s, I have been privy to incredible technological and societal change and advancement. I am still young enough to never have lived without a computer in my house, but old enough to remember a world without smartphones, now staples. As a college student, I cannot even begin to imagine my life without my iPhone, Macbook, and constant access to e-mail, social media and the Internet. In our increasingly multi-media world, journalism is perhaps the largest field affected.
The way people access and read content is evolving, mostly moving online to various outlets. My parents still watch television news and read the newspaper, but I definitely do not. Especially since coming to college, though, keeping up with current events has become extremely important to me; I get daily news blast e-mails, and use Twitter and my phone’s News app to constantly keep myself updated between classes. I also enjoy and search out different ways to see my peers’ thoughts about events both on campus and around the world, and visiting the growing online outlets where college students express these opinions.
Part of the Change
I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work directly with one of these groundbreaking new platforms. As Contributing Editor for Cornell University’s branch of the Odyssey, I have the privilege of playing an important part in the growth of this exciting new business. Founded by two Indiana University students and launched in 2014, Odyssey already has over 3,000 writers and a massive presence in campus media nationwide. According to Odyssey Editorial Director Kate Waxler, “We believe that the traditional top-down editorial model is broken, and created Odyssey to flip that model upside down. We’re redefining the way content is created, tapping into the relevance and engagement associated with hyper-local content and distributing our content in a unique and authentic way.”
Odyssey is unique in that it is both entirely online, and allows for the expression of diverse viewpoints and opinions. This was what initially drew me to Odyssey: the idea of writing each week about whatever I wanted, without limitations, constraints or assignments. It is a distinct platform for college students to speak their minds, explain their views, and discover how influential their writing can be. “We felt that there were many perspectives unrepresented and many voices not breaking through to the surface,” Waxler adds. “Odyssey enables those perspectives and voices to be heard.”
Advertisers love it, too. According to Waxler, since Odyssey is closely integrated with millennials, brands and agencies are “offered access to and insights about this sought-after demographic through our research and advertising opportunities.” What also makes Odyssey unusual is its reliance on social media and “shares” to spread content. “We are a hybrid between a publisher and a social media platform, and bring the best of both,” Waxler explains. “Our audience encounters Odyssey content (90% of the time) because someone they know shares it with them in social channels.” In this way, Odyssey is distinctly attuned to millennials–our lives, particularly our online lives, are defined by our mediated social circles, the way we hear about happenings local, national, and international.
Looking Toward the Future
Beyond gaining important leadership experience and practice meeting weekly deadlines, I have found in Odyssey an outlet to express things I would have never previously thought to write about. And I am learning that writing truthfully and emotionally about my own experiences often resonates with readers the most.
Possible topics are unlimited. I have written about everything from a review of “Supergirl” to heartfelt reflections about my sister and being a summer camp counselor. Interestingly, these personal pieces have clearly struck a nerve in others, based on the number of social media shares they have received. Other Cornell Odyssey pieces have ranged from campus libraries to the show “Friends” to the current conflict in Israel. Odyssey always gives students the opportunity to express their thoughts about absolutely anything.
Odyssey and its ilk represent the future of journalism. As a millennial and a Communication major, I know that I have an obligation and a challenge to bring traditional journalism into today’s world. It is a changing field, and my generation will help bring about this change. As Waxler says so well, “We are investing in the next generation of writers, and are using our proprietary technology and data science to bring content and ideas to the world.”
Interested? Check out theodysseyonline.com. Search for particular colleges on the Odyssey homepage.
Two-time Inside Chappaqua Guest Editor Lindsay Hand is a sophomore at Cornell University.