If you are a college student or have friends in college and a Facebook account, chances are you’ve seen at list one person promoting an article they’ve written for the site Odyssey Online. Essentially, the website says that it is the best place to freely share whatever is important to you without worrying about “what media sells.” It’s a publishing site written by millennials, for millennials.
Admittedly, I’ve been interested in the past to see what the hype was. I know of countless people even in my Facebook friend list who I see sharing their pieces with, most of which just look like blog posts to me. Every college has its own main editor, also a student, and writers send in their work, no matter the topic, and share it to everyone they can.
As a journalism student who also has this blog, the whole premise behind having the Odyssey Online baffles me to no end. I don’t see this as a replacement for other reputable sources to submit work. It’s a very grassroots system that doesn’t involve much rhyme or reason to content produced nor any major qualification from the editors running the show. I see the pieces published no different from just writing a blog, which you can easily do on your own time. The main difference is probably that you don’t have somebody working over you and probably keeping you accountable for turning in SOMETHING consistently. As you can see, I don’t have that problem here.
I feel like this site is what young people are considering professional journalism and media these days, that this is work worthy of sharing with employers to say yes, I’m a published writer. Depending on what you’re going into, having an online footprint is important, and yes, I have shared both my newspaper columns and blog posts with potential employers. I can also see where it might be helpful for students who might not have any other options at their school lacking a journalism program or newspaper, but this isn’t a true replacement nor will it ever compete with other places.
I see these types of sites like the Odyssey Online and Thought Catalog, those “relatable” posts about random subjects that people share and say, “This is SO me.” But again, how reputable is it? How is this benefiting others? Is your information credible, as that continues to be a major issue in the media world no matter the outlet. Because from what I’ve seen, they will publish basically anything. I mean, that’s “democratized content,” right? There might be some very good, informative work out there, but we’re treating every article as equal and promoting each as equal where everybody writes about similar topics…you just get lost in the fog. Unless you’re somehow breaking a major status quo, chances are you aren’t going to write much that somebody else has already done a whole article about.
Yes, you’ll get that phenomenon with anything you write. I’m writing this blog knowing that these aren’t necessarily out-of-the-ordinary ideas I’m sharing. I don’t pretend I’m some special case as a college student writing a blog about what I find passion in. I do this knowing that (at this point) this is unpaid, entirely independent from any news or media entity. I myself chose to do this and built it myself from the ground up, earning and reaching out the followers I have in under a year. That is something I’m very proud of.
The goal of the website seems more like making viral articles that spread across social media, even if there isn’t much substance there. They’re a lot of cliche posts trying to justify millennial problems and concerns. As a millennial, I don’t see why there needs to be a separate site JUST for millennials to talk about everything THEY care about is a reason why I see people criticize the millennial generation so much. Yes, we have made lots of progress for society, but what makes us entitled to need our own makeshift Huffington Post? I don’t see any major news or publishing outlets hunting down students from some viral fluff articles they’ve written on the Odyssey.
Not to mention that the site itself is not equipped to handle the mass amount of content produced every day. From looking online for any criticism about the Odyssey Online, I stumbled upon a former editor-in-chief talking about how easily anybody, no matter the technology experience, can hack into any writer’s account because the site’s password generator is not even sub-par. Not that the content is anything private or important, if it’s everything people are sharing online anyways, but I certainly wouldn’t want to devote my hard work and time into anything actively knowing that the system is so fragile.
Ultimately, do and write wherever you desire if you enjoy doing so. I’m not judging anybody personally for being an Odyssey writer, I simply see problems with the entire concept, that media is so corrupt that millennials need to write blog posts with the “Odyssey” label attached. There are already plenty of great resources for blogging or writing articles out there, truly democratized for every single person. If I’m choosing to write about any topic that interests without any specific assignment, I’m going to do it on my own time, on my own site, and give myself that credit for being timely, hard-working, and self-dependent. And if I want great insight and professional experience, I will go to newspaper and online editors with academic and professional qualifications I can learn from, someone I respect as a mentor, supervisor, and authority-type figure. I cannot get that same knowledge from a peer in the same boat as me, not in that same way.
If this is where the future is going for publishing and writing in general, I don’t know how I feel about that. Maybe I’m just stubborn. But I still see a very high value in formal education and experience to really grow, learn, and develop as a writer. And if there truly is a problem with the media industry and being bias about what content is published, let’s fix that first before we invest into a cheaper, less established site.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie