December 26, 2008

When National News Meets Local News

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Well, one more semester has come and gone. Cornellians have left campus for what seems like an ever-shortening winter break, bringing a snowy emptiness over East Hill. It’s been an eventful semester here at Cornell — between the introduction of a new financial aid policy, the opening of the new Weill Hall and President David Skorton’s visit to Iran to meet with education leaders.

But this semester has also seen some of the most significant changes in the world outside the Cornell bubble — a deep recession that doesn’t seem to be going away soon, the election of our nation’s first black president and terrorist attacks in India that killed hundreds. These events have no doubt left a lasting impact on Cornell; just talk to seniors who are looking for jobs in this economy or ask students who flooded Collegetown after Obama was elected.

In The Sun’s news department, localizing worldwide trends is one of the most important things we do. While we cover lectures and report on events happening around Cornell, it is news in the outside world that often has the most impact on students’ lives. And usually, it is the national and international news that becomes the subjects of the daily lectures and events that we end up covering.

So, what does it mean to effectively localize news in the world outside Ithaca? Let’s start with the financial crisis. When Lehman Brothers first took a dive, sending foreboding signs to the rest of the financial industry, it first seemed like it is was the students looking for jobs who would be affected. College students nationwide, but especially at Cornell, were looking towards careers in finance. After all, it was during the first day of the annual career fair that Lehman Brothers collapsed.

But once all of Wall Street began to unravel, bringing about a nationwide financial crisis, it appeared that more than job seekers were affected. Skorton began sending e-mails to the student body updating us on the status of Cornell’s finances. We all began to see that the money that comes into and leaves the University had been heavily affected by the state of the economy. As Cornell’s hiring and construction freezes went into effect, we saw that the link between Cornell’s finances and the recession would persist for a long time to come. Furthermore, as we head into Cornell’s regular decision application season, it will be interesting to note how the economy affects the number of people applying to Cornell. Identifying who has been affected and how is the key to localizing national news.

We constantly strive to put national news in a local context. But we also try to put local news in a national context. Just as people want to see how the world’s news affects Cornellians, people also want to see how the actions and policies of Cornell fit into the framework of the world around us. For example, how does Cornell’s new financial aid plan compare to other universities, and to what extent is it an attempt to regain students often lost to other schools? How will Weill Hall help Cornell to compete against the nation’s top schools for prominence in the life sciences? How will Skorton’s visit to Iran impact that country’s tumultuous history of education, and how will it further Cornell’s international aspirations?

Ithaca may be “10 square miles surrounded by reality” — especially during the snowy winter months — but it is the relation of our University to the world around us that affects us the most.