10 Things I’ve Learned (so far) as Editor-in-Chief of the Student Newspaper

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1. We like to write about untrue things, in the truest of ways. Our college has over 26,000 students and there are only 29 journalism majors. That’s less than one percent. I’m thinking the percentage majoring in English is much higher. (I’ve only met English majors on the newspaper staff, never journalism ones.) Perhaps this is because there is more of a focus on academic writing (a term I use loosely) in high schools, rather than what I call “career writing,” which I label journalistic or technical.

2. Don’t wait till you have the perfect-looking brochure to sell ads. If all you have is a flier that is decent and accurate, go sell ‘em. More ads=more pizza. (At least for us.)

3. Keeping meeting notes isn’t necessary, but meetings can be. I prefer to contact people individually, only sending the occasional general email. I’ve also embraced texting.

4. Not everything is a story. Sometimes it’s just a picture (and doesn’t that equal 1000 words?).

5. Certain features, like recipes and reviews, can serve as online content, where there is endless virtual real estate. (However, they still need to be written well.) My rule is that if you can find it on Google, it doesn’t belong in the print edition. Student names, student faces—that’s what needs to be in the newspaper. It’s like this: One student’s opinion of a video game < coverage of a campus event.

6. Always bring an audio recorder. I used the audio recording app on my cell phone and it worked fantastic. (You don’t have to look all Lois Lane with a complicated audio recorder that you have to take the SD card out and all that). With my phone, I press two buttons and can play the audio back immediately. I got many more quotes (and accurate, at that) using this device. However, I still scribbled on pen and paper as backup, just in case of technical difficulty.

7. When conducting a poll or survey, it’s a good idea to arrange a time with the teacher before their class (at least 15 minutes) to see if you can survey their students, because disturbing people in the library when they’re trying to study or stopping them on the green on their way to class might piss them off. Also, bring plenty of pencils. Make it as easy for them as possible. I was able to get over 30 in one day. One thing I did make sure of though, was that the class was diverse enough in what they were majoring in, because you don’t just want a bunch of people majoring in the same thing commenting on something—you want a cross-section of the campus.

8. Targeted recruitment for guest posting opportunities will get you more nibbles. (Still waiting for a bite.) Extending an invitation to “guest post” will keep people from thinking they have to make a commitment to produce more than one piece. Somehow, I don’t think it’s my job as Editor-in-Chief to recruit people, but what kind of world would we live in if everyone had the attitude that they wouldn’t do any more than what their job required?

9. Captions are easier than you think. It’s basically a summary of the picture in two sentences. Never say “poses for a picture.” No shit he (or she) is posing for a picture. Tell the story behind the picture (but in less than 1000 words, which means if the caption is 20 words, the picture should be worth about 980). This is proof that math is still important in journalism. Even though I wasn’t the editor at the time, when I told someone in the Math Lab that I worked for the student newspaper, they recalled a pie chart that was over 108%, which they laughed about for days.

10. The student newspaper means it is run by students, not faculty, and this is why:  http://principalsguide.org/the-first-amendment-and-student-media

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