The Daily Barometer’s impact ‘poured out through its pages’

Cathy, a digital communication arts student, grabs a Daily Barometer newspaper from the box in front of the Memorial Union. Since its establishment in 1896, The Daily Barometer’s reporters have been determined to report the most important stories to the OSU community.

kelsy Valentine, News Contributor

Student journalists who work for The Daily Barometer are in a unique position to report events happening on and around the Oregon State University campus, being students themselves while also providing news to their fellow students.

Since its creation in 1896, The Barometer has been serving the OSU and Corvallis, Ore. communities by bringing stories to the table that other news media outlets may not, or by telling those stories from the perspective of college students rather than seasoned journalism professionals.

“Students have a responsibility of informing, educating, guiding, persuading and entertaining other students, faculty, staff and the Corvallis community from a student perspective,” Frank Ragulsky, who served as the director of student media from February 1982 to June 2009, said via email. “Student Media served as a training ground for budding journalists without administrative control. Students were allowed to succeed and sometimes fail without fear of reprisal.”

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The Barometer, Ragulsky said, also gave students the opportunity to report news from a student perspective. OSU typically isn’t covered by outside media, unless a major or important event is happening, so The Barometer is able to fill this gap by making an effort to focus on OSU news.

The idea of The Barometer focusing on OSU news, specifically, is an important idea that Matthew LaPlante, a former Barometer staff member and current author, journalist and associate professor at Utah State University, emphasized.

“The Barometer has been an indispensable resource for campus and community news,” LaPlante said via email. “It has also served at times as a watchdog over Oregon State administration – a tremendously important role… Corvallis is fortunate to have a campus publication that contributes to the news ecosystem. The more news sources, the better.”

Although The Barometer is one of many newspapers in Corvallis, The Barometer reports news from the perspectives of students and aims to help the other news media outlets to make sure that nothing important goes unnoticed.

During Ragulsky’s time as the director of student media, they also said a survey had been conducted that found that The Barometer had a huge reach of about 14,500 readers on a daily basis. The study also found that these people read the paper four or more times per week, showing its importance and impact in the local community.

The Barometer’s impact on all university life and activities poured out through its pages,” Ragulsky said. “Whether it was through the arts, entertainment, sports, academics or activities, The Barometer was the best medium to reach its audiences.”

Despite that The Barometer is run by students—most of whom have never before had experience in journalism—it has managed to thrive amongst a world of professionals. It’s provided local news to the OSU and Corvallis communities and continues to do so even now.

“We considered ourselves real competition to the local newspaper, and even to larger state newspapers if there were some big stories breaking,” Kaite Pesznecker, the stakeholder relations manager at Alyeska Pipeline Service Company in Anchorage, AK and former Barometer editor-in-chief, said via email. “I think our reporting and our work challenged those newspapers and news sources to be better and more thorough, and ultimately that’s the best outcome for the audience, because you have many journalists working very hard to tell the whole story.”

The Barometer, though, hasn’t only had an impact on the outside OSU and Corvallis communities. It’s also had an impact on the staff members and aspiring student journalists that worked there.

“I didn’t start at Oregon State intending to become a journalist,” LaPlante said. “That changed after I began working at The Barometer. Twenty years later, my journalism career has taken me around the world. As a career journalist, and now a professor of journalism, I can say with great certainty that my life was very meaningfully impacted by my time at The Barometer.”

Pesznecker, too, said that her college experience had been impacted the most by The Barometer, even after having a busy social life, spending freshman year in a fun dorm, and being part of a great sorority for all five years of college. She said that she even still meets up with and remains close with a small group of friends from The Barometer.

“At the core of things, we were part of something, together,” Pesznecker said. “The act of making something every day – with creativity, with heart, with determination – that wove our friendships so tight, and I’m grateful for it… I don’t know that everyone is lucky enough to have friendships like this that endure so many years and I am lucky to have several of them with these great people, and it all started with The Barometer.”

According to Ragulsky, even though The Barometer’s past student staff members left to pursue other opportunities, many of them are still connected to journalism.

“We have had alums at The New York Times, Seattle Post Intelligencer, The Oregonian, Orange County Register, Baltimore Sun, Sacramento Bee, Eugene Register Guard, Gazette Times and probably every daily and weekly in Oregon,” Ragulsky said. “And, yes, many past Barometer greats ended up in corporate communication. Several worked at Hewlett Packard and one is one of the top 50 women CEO’s in the nation.”

Ragulsky added that even the other past staffers who are not currently working as journalists got their strong work ethic from The Barometer and continue to represent both it and OSU.

The Barometer has had a long history of reporting news and it will continue to do so because current and former student staff have said they are invested and dedicated to providing the best news they can.

“One of the endearingly cool things about media is it becomes part of that historical record,” Pesznecker said. “We aren’t handing out storytelling reigns over to some outside experts or wholly professional media outlets that maybe don’t even have an office or full time reporter in town. The Barometer staff takes on that duty of creating that historical record that is by and for the students of OSU. That’s a tradition that has never changed.”