Staying informed difficult in the Whitman bubble

Allison Bolgiano

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Credit: Emily Johnson

Two of the most difficult things I’ve done recently were filling out my ballot and writing my column two weeks ago. Voting and writing about the media proved to me how insular the Whitman bubble is and that staying informed will require adaptation.

As college student at a liberal arts college, and especially as a newspaper columnist, I feel an obligation to be informed about current events. Keeping up with world events allows more connections during class discussions and certainly helps me write more informative columns. However, the truth is I am struggling to stay informed.

Whitman’s environment is perfect for many things, but being news-savvy is not one of them, at least not for me. At home my family received the Seattle Times daily. Every morning I would eat a bowl of cereal and read the newspaper, not cover to cover, but I got an overview of the important news of the day. I also caught some news on the radio and occasionally on TV. Getting the news required little conscious effort on my part. However, when I left home things changed.

I must make a confession. Originally, I hoped to write my previous column about coverage of this year’s election season. I intended to focus on the need for issue, not event, based coverage. After not following the news, finding examples of poor election coverage proved difficult. Thus, I chose to examine the media more broadly. It felt a bit pathetic to be unable to write about problems with election coverage because I have not been following it closely enough to have anything to say.

Filling out my ballot also highlighted how insulated I am. Usually I know what the important initiatives are about. However, this year I had to read the voters’ pamphlet not for details but just to know what the initiatives proposed.

It seems as though Whitman as a whole did not follow the election closely. In the weeks leading up to the November 2 election, little political activity was apparent around campus. I did receive e-mails from the Young Democrats urging me to support Patty Murray’s campaign by going door to door or by seeing her speak at Walla Walla Community College. However, little happened here. Disappointingly, the election was neither a visible or vocalized issue on campus.

Although I am responsible for my news deficit, Whitman could help me get informed again. The only newspaper readily available in physical form is the local Union Bulletin, found for free in the basement of Reid. While knowing what is happening in Walla Walla is important, keeping up with national and global news is more essential. I would love it if the College planted copies of the New York Times around campus. The newspapers in the library, which are awkwardly kept on long, wooden rods, don’t beckon readers. Nothing seems more perfect than unfolding a newspaper while sitting on a comfy couch in the library or Reid.

College life requires many adjustments. It is undeniably and unchangeably very different from life at home or in the real world. For people like me, finding ways to stay informed requires adaptation. Many areas of one’s life must be restructured in order to succeed as a student. Getting the news in ways that fit into college life is the key.

As much as I love Whitman’s campus-centered lifestyle and having almost everything I need on campus, I fear the isolation of the Whitman bubble. As a student I feel a responsibility not just toward academic learning but also to global awareness. I can pursue sociology, environmental studies, or politics as far as I want, but like many other academic disciplines, the true value of these studies is applying their principles to current events.

I know that I can pop the Whitman bubble, ending my disconnectedness. If you are like me and feel that what’s happening beyond Whitman is a bit of a mystery, I encourage you to join me in reconnecting. Spending a few minutes a day on the New York Times Website or reading the news magazines in the quiet room provides a refreshing study break and a healthy dose of news.