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Reoriented: a (thank you) letter to the editors

May 3, 2024

This piece represents the opinion of the author .
Henry Abbott

In response to the author of “Disoriented: a review of the Bowdoin Orient”: I’ll bite.

While expressing your disappointment with the “pathetic” volume of writing and lack of “truly unpopular,” “audacious” and “controversial” contributions in and to the opinion section is one thing, declaring the Orient as a whole “disoriented” and mounting a short-sighted critique of a pillar of the Bowdoin community and the “toils” of many of your peers is another.

You question what the Bowdoin Orient is “meant to be.” The “About the Orient” section of its website reads: “The Bowdoin Orient is a student-run weekly publication dedicated to providing news and information relevant to the College community.” There is nothing about delivering “shock[ing]” investigations and exposés on a weekly basis nor a guarantee that the information and opinions it contains will be riveting enough to demand your attention for more than the “ten minutes” it takes you to flip through the latest edition while you pick at your breakfast.

I’m guessing you might not read your local newspaper, or the Orient for that matter, beyond the opinion section, because if you did, you would understand what I believe is a fundamental truth about local news (and the Orient is very local news): It’s not always exciting or “intellectual[ly] courage[ous].” And it doesn’t have to be. A primary purpose of the news is to inform, but not necessarily to entertain or provoke. It’s no surprise that the Orient’s headlines don’t stack up against the New York Times or your “For You” page; They primarily cover the tiny world of Bowdoin College and Brunswick—and for me, that’s just fine.

It can be nice to catch up on what is happening around campus. Did you actually attend all the talks and lectures covered by the Orient over the past month? Were you in the crowd of every Bowdoin sporting event or performance? I certainly was not, and I appreciate learning that my lab partner set a record in long jump last weekend, that the person sitting across from me in Moulton recently completed their short film, that my professor is receiving a prestigious grant for their research or that a new shop is opening in town. And if they aren’t reporting, contributors frequently open up personally to reflect on their experiences at the College and elsewhere in their lives. These many stories you so easily dismiss make up a significant portion of the publication and have a strong capacity to build community and bring us closer together, if you allow them to.

We should consider ourselves lucky to have this unbiased, free, local news source (in print too!) as so many others disappear across the US.

You should consider that you might not “already know” everything that goes on at your college, however small it is, and rather that you are failing to recognize—or simply don’t care about—the potentially mundane everyday happenings of our community. I hope you can see that in claiming “every week is an amalgamation of mediocrity” in reference to the Orient as a whole (you do not mention a specific section), you are not so much criticizing the publication as you are each week’s events. If you really find Bowdoin so mediocre, don’t take it out on our newspaper. (Don’t kill the messenger much?)

Finally, I found it painfully ironic that you quoted the Offer of the College at the end of your article: “To gain a standard of appreciation for others’ work?” Seriously? How can you invoke such a principle when you spurn the tireless and largely unpaid work of the Orient staff and contributors as nothing more than an “afterthought.” You are, of course, entitled to your opinion on the opinion section, and perhaps it could do with more submissions, but beyond that, I encourage you to “reorient” your understanding of the Orient’s role as a newspaper and the service it provides.

On a personal note, I have been abroad both semesters of this academic year, and reading the Orient helps me feel closer to campus each week despite the distance. So, let me be one to say thank you to the editors, staff and contributors for all your hard work this year. It did not go unnoticed, despite what others might have you think.

Thank you to Ben Norwood ’25 for editing wisdom.

Jondall Norris is a member of the Class of 2025. 


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  1. Class of 25 says:

    Waffle maker in thorne.

  2. Old Bear Returns says:


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