A group of students on campus recently launched ACU’s branch of the Odyssey Online. For those who are not friends with the millenials who share these posts on Facebook, the Odyssey is an online platform for writers to share thoughts and ideas about what matters to them. Students from all backgrounds across ACU’s campus are now contributing to the group’s new Facebook page, with their thoughts on social clubs, religion or relationships.
Peppered with opinion pieces or lists of “27 things you know are true if you go to a Christian university,” America’s young people seem to be flocking to this sort of news source. Scroll through anyone’s Facebook feed and a few Odyssey articles are bound to pop up.
The Odyssey was founded by two Indiana University students who wanted to bring more diversity of thought to the news industry. They set out to completely flip the top-down editorial model of most news outlets and aimed to organically grow a network of readers and ideas. Their site has exploded among university students, with over 600 online communities, 6,000 content creators and 20+ million unique monthly visitors, most of whom read content on their mobile phones. Social media is the Odyssey’s lifeblood and without it, their channel for distribution would disappear.
As the network of twenty-somethings has taken off online, the Optimist staff members are left scratching their heads and questioning how to approach the future issues and stories written. In the first week of Odyssey on campus, students have shared stories on a variety of subjects, including dogs, voting, hipsters, racism, road trips, religion and social clubs. But even though we may not be posting articles on “13 reasons to wear Chacos year round,” the Optimist still serves a purpose on ACU’s campus.
Based on articles shared thus far, the Odyssey functions like a lot of personal columns in the opinion page of a newspaper. Students get to share thoughts on really whatever they feel like saying on a giant blog with a built-in audience. The Optimist, however, specializes in more local and specific coverage of the happenings on and around ACU’s campus. To learn what is happening locally, read the Optimist. To know what students of various backgrounds think on broader issues, click on an Odyssey link. Both platforms are competing for online readership but could there perhaps be room for two at the table?
The world is rapidly changing, the media industry doesn’t look like it did ten years ago and in ten more, we don’t expect it to be unmoved either. In order to continue discussion of our thoughts on current issues, someone has to keep reporting the news. The flow of Odyssey content creation still relies on contributors knowing what is going on in the world. If all we read or write is our fellow students’ thoughts on social clubs, our information diet would be deficient in important areas. As consumers of information, we must maintain a healthy balance of the subjective and objective. Students who read both the Odyssey and the Optimist could be better off for it. Seeking out well-written and well-thought-out pieces from any news outlet, though a bit of a scavenger hunt at times, stretches our mind and puts our opinions on current events in context.