Editorial: fiat justitia, ruat caelum

How and Why the Newswire continued our production through COVID-19

Members of this year’s Newswire team smile for a year-end group photo that was supposed to have taken place in person. Despite facing several unprecedented setbacks caused by the COVID-19 shutdown, business continued as usual online.

Fiat justitia, ruat caelum: ‘justice be done though the heavens fall.’ These four words sit atop our newspaper every week. Maybe you have seen them, maybe you have ignored them, but this Latin phrase is more or less an urgent call for justice. It denotes that justice should be carried out come hell or high water, regardless of the situation or consequences.

Even in the most unprecedented circumstances, the Newswire staff have met this call for justice — the need to provide a platform for Xavier students. From a dozen states and across three time zones, this team has managed to assemble our weekly newspaper, even during a global pandemic.

Like the rest of Xavier, we did not expect to leave for spring break and never return to campus. We were anticipating a normal end of the semester, albeit a tearful one as we said goodbye to an incredible group of seniors, some of whom spent all four of their years at Xavier as a part of the Newswire.

The moment we heard Xavier would be closed for the remainder of the spring, it was a collective moment of sadness and frustration. There was an onslaught of raw emotions and thoughts, but when the fog cleared, there was a consensus reached: if it was possible to continue publishing, we were going to make it happen.

“The Newswire is how students can find out about what is going on at Xavier and more important, what goes into the decisions being made at Xavier,” outgoing Editor-in-Chief, Kevin Thomas, said. “There were questions that we needed to have answered and we were the best medium to do that.”

You have to understand that in Gallagher Student Center (GSC) 210 we have developed a rather seamless editing process that happens using Xavier-provided software and a team of over 20 students. The idea to move all of this work to a dozen laptops across the country was not considered lightly.

In fact, the original idea was to have a handful of copyeditors meet in GSC and edit the paper with proper social distancing measures. It became apparent that this was not an option when the Ohio Health Department announced more restrictive measures and GSC’s closure became inevitable.

Thus, we would be working remotely. Thanks to Xavier’s IT department and the dedication of our incoming Editor-in-Chief, Heather Gast, all of the page editors were given access to Adobe’s In-Design and Photoshop software that are crucial for assembling each page. Using templates Gast pulled off the drive at school, we had the framework of a newspaper.

Usually, the entire paper is assembled and edited in one night. It was decided to split up this process over three days because we quickly discovered that things do not happen nearly as efficiently while working remotely. It is also worth noting that our plan has endured several alterations since March.

Most significantly, we moved back our publishing day from Wednesday to Thursday to allow more time for editing.

Every Thursday morning, a PDF version of the newspaper was emailed to the entire Xavier community via a newsletter. Keeping with tradition, we met on Zoom for a weekly meeting to go over the week’s issue and assign stories.

The Newswire writers also remarked that gathering quotes for their stories has been more than challenging during COVID-19. The journalism standard has always prized in-person interviews over phone calls or emails. We now had to rely on emails and phone calls to answer all of our questions.

“The most difficult part was getting in contact with various professors and students since everyone is in different places,” incoming Arts & Entertainment Editor Kate Ferrell said.

“You can no longer talk to strangers in Gallagher,” World News Editor Mo Juenger said. “You have to reach deep into your contacts and acquire additional names in order to get a variety of quotes.” “It has been really difficult to branch out beyond your own friend group,” she added.

It was not easy, but articles of all varieties managed to come together. We reached deep into our contacts to gather the most inclusive and all-encompassing views we could find.

In a word, the Newswire team has been resilient. We have been able to produce a newspaper from a gaggle of laptops spread across the country.

Even during a pandemic, the news does not stop. Arguably, it is during a pandemic when people need consistent news the most. “Being forced to move home has been difficult, but we wanted this community to persist despite the distance,” Thomas said.

“We wanted to continue doing what we had been doing, not allowing us to be discouraged by the challenges we are now facing. We wanted to continue to… be a regular part of student life, no matter what that looks like when students are spread across the country,” he said.

Today is our last paper of the year, and hopefully the last paper we have to produce from our childhood bedrooms and kitchen tables. We hope that the continued publication of the Newswire brought the Xavier community some semblance of normalcy and kept the student voice at the forefront of the decisions made over the past two months.

It wasn’t easy, but the hard work was worth it. Fiat justitia, ruat caelum.