New student publication focuses on political discussion
Political parties disappeared in the mists of history. The separatist region of Transnitria and its Soviet roots. Interview with a former congressional candidate. The war in Ukraine.
These are just some of the topics explored by the authors of Happy Medium, Binghamton University’s new political science-themed student publication.
Trevor Fornara, a junior philosophy, politics and law (PPL) student, sparked the effort in mid-December, speaking to co-editors Briana Lopez-Patino and Arwen Fernandez O’Brien, whom he knew from e -board of the Interdisciplinary Research Club.
“It started with the realization that there wasn’t this kind of forum on campus for political content,” Fornara explained. “We wanted to create an opportunity for political science, PPL and English students who want to develop their journalism skills to have that experience, and also create a forum for political discussion within the student body.”
Other student publications tend to be aligned with a particular political perspective or have limited space for editorials, Fornara said.
After promoting the post on Instagram and through political science classes, the trio received more than 30 writing samples from across campus. Today they have a staff of 26 students, including 20 editors, three editors, an editor, a political director and a graphic designer. Since launching the website in February, they’ve published 13 articles, with another dozen in development.
The primary audience is Binghamton’s student body, and students in any major are welcome to submit their writing for review; writers should form structured arguments and approach their topics respectfully and productively.
The title is ironic. The “middle ground” doesn’t really exist in political science, especially when the parties involved have to come to a compromise over perceived rights or privileges. Whatever compromise is reached, he’s usually not particularly happy, Fornara explained.
But that’s also a pun: “medium” also refers to the various media that organizers would like to explore as they provide political content, from magazines to Instagram to podcasts.
O’Brien, a first-year PPL student and marketing writer for the group, hopes the publication will provide a steady stream of respectful, high-quality conversations and the sharing of ideas among students. If it succeeds in Binghamton, perhaps the publication can expand beyond the University, she said.
Reading other students’ positions on current events helps her keep an open mind, she said.
“Our world has become extremely polarized and with that it has become increasingly difficult to talk about different political ideas without fear of backlash. It’s important to hear and learn from perspectives other than your own,” O’Brien explained, noting that Happy average offers that outlet to readers and writers.
Present and future
There are no deadlines and quotas to Happy average; writers choose their own topics, either from their own formulation or from the publication’s pool of ideas, and work on them at their own pace. They aren’t limited to print-style items either; Happy Medium recently unveiled its first edition of Half Moon, a satirical “political astrology” column available only on Instagram. Fornara also created a video using After Effects and hopes to develop more graphics for the site.
The executive writing team – Fornara, O’Brien and Lopez-Patino – reviews each draft, along with a copy editor. Each piece goes through several review cycles, until everyone feels the piece is ready for release; new articles posted during Happy averageTuesday and Friday office hours.
“Happy average emphasizes and prioritizes research. When talking about politics, it’s important that everything be factual and/or strongly argued,” explained Lopez-Patino, junior philosophy student and editor. “This requires intensive research to ensure that the information comes from reliable sources. Then the editors check everything. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it to be a quality publication.
That being said, the writing style is more akin to newspapers than peer-reviewed journal articles, a deliberate choice.
“One of the main attractions of Happy average is that it is not an academic publication. We are decidedly non-academic because we want to capture the voice of students,” Fornara said. “We invite our writers to use the vernacular to make the pieces more conversational and personal to them.”
In the long term, the publishers would like to see increased readership and obtain funding from the University to create physical copies of the magazine.
He will make progress towards that dream this summer. Fornara was accepted into the Undergraduate Research Center’s Summer Scholars and Artists program; For his project, he will investigate the role of non-academic, student-run publications on campus and analyze the political editorials found there. A special print edition of Happy average could be in the stars.
Contrary to Blowjob Dreamstudent newspaper, Happy average stays away from local politics and criticism of the University, which are outside of its core mission; therefore, funding the university would not pose a conflict of interest, Fornara explained.
“We are non-partisan, which is exactly what Binghamton needs right now with the political climate,” Lopez-Patino said. “I am passionate about education, so Happy average is a great opportunity to stay informed and contribute to an active discussion about diverse perspectives.