NewsStudent-run publication ‘The Tower’ aims to bring an alternative news source to campus

Staff members from the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing speak about The Tower's use of Trinity logo
Kaylie KingFebruary 28, 201912945 min
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Photo by Genevieve Humphreys

The Tower, a publication which is edited and written by several Trinity students, has recently risen in visibility among the Trinity community. The publication, formerly called The Wendt, was started a few years ago by former Trinity students Jonah Wendt and Manfred Wendt, both class of 2018. The current leadership of the publication has revamped their website, changed the name of the publication and published articles more consistently over the course of the current academic year.

Senior Luke Ayers, editor-in-chief of The Tower, explained the purpose of the publication.

“Our goal is to fill a couple different niches at Trinity and in San Antonio,” Ayers said. “There’s a lot of events of interest to conservatives that aren’t really reported on by other local papers. … Also things on campus that aren’t getting coverage for whatever reason.”

The Collegiate Network (CN), a program that provides financial and technical assistance to students looking to start their own publications, helped kickstart The Tower when it was The Wendt.

“Most of the publications in the network are decades old,” Ayers said. “At some schools, that’s the official school paper. Some of them are just academic journals about philosophy or economics, stuff like that. Some are just lifestyle magazines. Some are weekly or daily newspapers, so there’s a big range. It’s definitely a conservative, free-market organization, but as far as what we’re told to print, our only restrictions are electioneering. We can’t publish campaign propaganda, but we wouldn’t be doing that anyway.”

The CN provides training through a yearly editors’ conference. The CN also covers the cost of travel for the editors. Ayers attended the conference in the summer of 2017, and sophomore Maddie D’Iorio, deputy editor and lifestyle editor of the publication, attended the conference in December 2018.

“That’s the big couple-day training every year for editors, but we also have ongoing mentorship as needed with collegiate network staff members and also the network of other collegiate network projects at other schools,” Ayers said.

Editors who have attended the conference then share what they learned with new writers.

“We took the training that we received at the conference and taught that to the writers, a condensed version,” D’Iorio said. “We took everything there and used some resources that were given to us from CN to train everyone.”

The Tower has caught the attention of many students and staff, including some staff members in the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing. Tess Coody-Anders, vice president in that office, found out about The Tower after being forwarded an article on their website.

“In reading the article, what piqued my curiosity was the name of the publication,” Coody-Anders said. “My concern was that it may be confusing with a publication, a newsletter that we produce out of the university called ‘Tower News.’ I was also concerned that perhaps there would be reader confusion about whether or not this was an official publication of the university or of student publications.”

Coody-Anders also commented on the online version an opinion article published on The Tower’s website entitled “Trinity University Subsidizes Sin.” In her comment, Coody-Anders asked the author, first-year Victoria Ydens, if her experience at Trinity has differed from the image of the university that she initially perceived.

“One of the things that we’re doing in strategic communications and marketing is something we call student journey-mapping,” Coody-Anders said. “We are trying to understand how students perceive Trinity as prospective students and then how their perceptions and feelings about the university evolve as they move through their time at Trinity. It struck me in that one article that the author may have been presented with a distinctly different picture of the university before she matriculated. I don’t know if that was her experience or what role marketing may have played in any gap in perception of reality, but I was just curious about to see if she might share some of that with me, but I haven’t heard.”

Along with a name that references Trinity, The Tower’s logo also depicts a tower similar to Murchison Tower.

“With the tower specifically, is there a policy that says that they can’t use a tower that isn’t trying to use our literal tower? Not necessarily,” said Michelle Bartonico, assistant vice president for Strategic Communications and Marketing. “But does that walk a line? Absolutely. So we’re not going to ask them to rename it or anything like that, but we are going to ask them to, under where it says ‘The Tower,’ probably write underneath that a little tagline that just says ‘an independent student publication,’ something like that where it just clearly says it’s not necessarily an endorsed or sponsored publication.”

The Tower’s mission statement explains the significance of the publication, stating:

“We chose to rename our publication for the distinctive Murchison Tower on Trinity’s campus, for the Tower of the Americas and for the idea of intellectual pursuit that the image of a tower evokes.”

The editors of The Tower hope to publish two print editions this semester to be distributed on campus and around San Antonio.

“Right now, we’re still looking at pricing, how many copies, what format, how much color and stuff like that,” Ayers said. “Once we know how many copies we’re going to have to work with and how big they’re going to be and things like that we’ll start looking at, do we need to do anything to be able to distribute it here or anywhere else?”

While the website is paid for by donations, the CN will cover The Tower’s printing costs.

“Different people that think that the project is important have pitched in some money,” Ayers said. “It wasn’t a huge sum that we have to work with, but it’s enough to get started and hopefully grow into something much larger over the next years.”

According to David Tuttle, dean of students, there are no specific guidelines or procedures for publications who want to distribute on campus.

“There are a handful of publications that the university puts out or that campus publications puts out, like the Trinitonian and the Mirage,” Tuttle said. “Those are official university approved publications. So for whatever venues we have, whether it’s the paper racks we have set up for the Trinitonian or a table set up for the Mirage, we don’t have a mechanism in place for what I would call either newsletters or, whether it’s coming from a student group or a private group of students, from time to time we’ve had things pop up that would be considered underground publications. I wouldn’t consider this underground, so there really is no mechanism in place but I don’t think anybody would stand in the way of them distributing something.”

Tuttle went on to explain that how The Tower presents their print editions will influence if any action will be taken by the administration.

“If they had printed copies that they wanted to distribute, as long as they weren’t trashing facilities with where they left them and things like that, I think we usually have a pretty high tolerance for anything that allows students to express themselves,” Tuttle said. “The only time that things like this become problematic is if any individuals are being targeted or harassed, and the other thing is with something like this, I think the students who are running it need to have clarity in what their product is. If they’re trying to present themselves as a bona fide journalistic venture like the Trinitonian they need to have clarity about what it is that they’re doing.”

The Tower can be read online at thetower.news.

Kaylie King

One comment

  • Monique

    March 22, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    So basically they’re pah-pooing that they didn’t want to join the already independent student newspaper, and events of their interests chose not to advertise or invite trinitonian writers. Also how will they distance themselves from the less than polite behavior of the Wendt twins over the years (ie. that anonymous Facebook account one or both of them had that showed up in trinity student only Facebook groups).

    Reply

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