You may recall from the beginning of summer that one of my classes involved working for the Cleveland Stater. Now that fall semester has begun, i’ve progressed along to the second phase of that endeavor. See, the capstone for CSU’s journalism program puts students in the newsroom of the Stater and essentially our job is to produce the bi-weekly publication. My first go-around, i was pretty green. Our staff was very small, and it was summer so there wasn’t a whole lot going on around campus. On the other hand, i wound up with a lot of bylines and various credits so that was extremely cool.
Enough about the past though. i’m a journalist and i should be talking about the present!
The current issue. Stater reporter Josh Hoover’s dream came true – it reads “CSU is tobacco” above the fold
Presently, i have the distinction of being editor-in-chief of the Cleveland Stater. Our staff this fall is large, and with several people interested in the position i am proud and humbled to have been chosen for the role. It’s pretty freakin’ awesome, i don’t mind saying. So far, i think my favorite aspect of the position is doing whatever i can to motivate, inspire or just plain help my staff in whatever way i can. If there’s any sort of arcane reasoning behind how our faculty adviser chooses who will lead the team, i certainly couldn’t tell you. But i like to imagine he can see that i am passionate about what i do and that i will work hard – and get my team to work hard – to produce a superior newspaper.
The Cleveland Stater staff – hard at work in the newsroom
To that end, i’ve been focusing a lot of time and energy into helping my staff develop their beats and leads into stories they can feel accomplished about. If i have any real regrets at this point, it’s only that i don’t have more time to devote to everything. But for the time being, i’m doing my best to get by on the 3-5 hours of sleep i manage each night.
The way this pair of courses is organized is truly superb if you ask me. Maybe all college majors are designed this way; i couldn’t tell you how a biology major’s senior year goes. When i returned to college as a non-traditional transfer student a couple of years ago, my only remaining courses to complete were all journalism classes. And now that i’m near to the end, it’s plain to see that everything i’ve been taught is set to task while working for the Stater.
Each reporter on the staff is assigned a beat, and it’s our responsibility to stay up to date with it and report on what we discover. EIC is no exception – i’ve got campus administration; engineering, science and health; and campus services like international academics and IST. If i’m honest, the science/engineering stuff holds the most personal interest for me.
We hold editorial meetings to pitch our stories and discuss important matters as a team. In preparation for these meetings, i make a list of all the stories that ought to be covered. Then we go around the table and everyone pitches their ideas, with me going last. So far we’ve only had one editorial meeting, but i was pleased as punch to note that everything on my list had been pitched by one of the reporters. Everything except one, which is a story i wanted to cover myself. It was all kinds of win that day.
Ready for distribution – a task for the newbs. Time for them to have the sore arms! i delivered a stack or two though, for nostalgia
As reporters, we do our news gathering, identifying the stakeholders of our stories and speaking with them to get perspectives (and quotes – gotta have those quotes!). My professor said something the first week of class that really hit home for me and made what we do very clear. A reporter’s job is to share with the audience what he or she feels is the most important parts of whatever it is we’re covering. That sounds pretty simple, but therein lies the beauty of it. A good news story does more than just throw facts at you in an inverted pyramid format. It is the reporter’s opportunity to craft a story about what they discovered along the way. In that regard, the researcher in me relished the process. Before speaking to stakeholders and sitting down to do the actual writing, it’s a chance to find out more about the topic. By doing so, interviews are much improved and insights gained that help the final draft carry some meaning for the audience.
Reporter, photographer and social media coordinator Jordan Gonzalez in the Stater office. Bonus points for the Batman sticker
A few weeks ago I would have said the writing is the best part, hands down. i mean, that’s where my passion resides. Selecting the right words and arranging them just so…i love that! And this is going to sound uber-nerdy, but polishing a draft up in AP style, correcting the grammar and punctuation, tweaking a graf here and a graf there – it’s a lot of fun! When you read your final draft and feel like it fires on all cylinders, after all your hard work, it’s quite exhilarating. Words, words, words.
The whiteboard where big decisions are displayed in the newsroom
Then comes press day. Two associate editors and i meet in the newsroom very early in the morning. Before us is a blank whiteboard. Cups of strong-brewed coffee in hand, we are tasked with determining what will see print, and what will not [strong coffee is an editorial mandate. - ed.]. And what pages each story will go on. And whose responsibility it is to layout each page. And what will be the front page lead. And a hundred other little decisions before the rest of the staff gathers in the newsroom to begin the day’s work.
Our first press day was predictably chaotic. Those of us seasoned Stater staffers were ready with gusto to face blank InDesign pages. It is our duty to pass on our knowledge to the newcomers, who will one day be in our shoes. This is a role i took very seriously, and made sure that i leapt to help anyone who needed assistance. i hope that everyone feels integral to the staff and no one felt neglected. It was very important to me that everyone understood that their work was appreciated, and i wanted them to know they could count on me to help however i could.
At the end of our first press day – a marathon 11-hour scramblefest – the newsroom was occupied once again by only me and the two associate editors. We were exhausted, but in a good way. The exhaustion of a single day’s effort to create something. i like to think we accomplished more than just laying out pages and copy editing. We all got to know each other better, bonding through our combined efforts and the incredibly cramped nature of the newsroom. There was much camaraderie and i definitely have a romantic notion that this group of individuals will be forged into an excellent team of reporters and editors capable of producing an outstanding publication. These are the moments you look back on in later years. Once we’ve all moved ahead in our lives, i’d like to think we’ll remember our Stater days fondly. All that we learned from each other, the challenges we faced both together and from each other that helped us grow.
And just maybe one or two people will remember their editor from college. The nit-picky, detail-oriented fellow who sincerely hopes to see his staff move on to big things. i’d like to think i walk a balanced line between encouraging coach and disciplined taskmaster.
Anyway, it should come as no surprise that part of me feels like i’m just getting started with this post. Clocking in at 1250 words right now, it’s a mere trifle. But if i’m honest, this time could be better spent devoted to the Stater and staff. News is happening all around us, all the time, and i’ve got over a dozen people full of energy and talent whose motivation is to find those stories and craft them into something you want to read.
Speaking of something to read, here’s a handy list of links to the current Stater’s articles written by yours truly. One of the exciting projects we hope to tackle this semester is revamping the Stater’s website, something i touched on over the summer. Our social media coordinator this semester is top-notch as well, so be sure to check out our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. Feel free to contact the Stater with story ideas or whatever – we want to ramp up the Stater this semester and create something people will look forward to picking up every other week.
Thanks for visiting!