[OP/ED] Learning to Fly
Where does the time go? To think that I have just one measly semester left of my career as an undergraduate and student journalist gives me chills!
While there is absolutely no excuse for not blogging during my first semester as editor in chief of The Butler Collegian, my new year’s resolution is to keep this blog updated about the trials and tribulations of my job (or at least the ones I can talk about).
The new year is the time to plan ahead, but it’s also a good time to reflect, so this post is dedicated to some valuable lessons I’ve learned during my time as a student journalist.
There is absolutely nothing like being in charge of a publication. It’s simultaneously insanely fun and insanely stressful. I don’t know how the Jill Abramsons or the John Smalleys or the Bob Cusacks do it!
I look up to these executive/managing editors more than I could ever express. Their grace in their leadership positions never ceases to amaze me and I can’t express the high degree of excitement that I have for learning from the editor at my first full-time job when I graduate.
I have a lot to learn, to be sure, but I’ve also realized how far I’ve come. Over the winter holiday break I’ve been able to spend a considerable chunk of time cleaning out my closet. And because I’ve been a journalism nerd for eight years now (wow), the sheer volume of student newspapers that I’ve paged through is pretty unspeakable.
The reactions have needless to say been a wide variety. Did I seriously think that was a cool design? What was I thinking writing that lede? How in God’s name is this a Page 1 story? I can’t believe we actually had the balls to write that. Aw, okay, that’s actually pretty well-written. This infographic is the sexiest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on.
The old articles and designs aren’t even close to the memories that these things brought back during my time as editor in chief of both my high school and college papers. Did I really make that leadership decision? Why couldn’t I delegate more? I should have focused more on copy editing. This writer improved SO MUCH over the course of one semester. Ahh, I remember that story…what a rush!
I showed some of the more rough stuff to my father who just laughed at me. He said that he drives by some of his old buildings and feels the same way. After some conversation and mild embarrassment about some of my old work, I realized that none of my old journalistic blunders matter in the way that I thought they would.
What really matters is that eight years later, I’m a completely different leader than I was. My love of writing morphed into a love for the reporting and research process. My wordiness channeled itself into a love of self-editing. My hotheaded sass has refined itself into levelheaded passion.
The mistakes matter too, but I’ve nurtured my passion with a commitment to improvement. In all of my endeavors, I’ve learned something about how to hone my craft and added another piece to the puzzle of being ready for a full-time job at a professional publication.
As a high school journalist, I knew that the dissemination of fair and accurate information to the public was important and that I wanted to play a role in it, but I didn’t know how to do it with any finesse.
As an early college journalist, I knew that content comes before design, but I couldn’t successfully navigate my way around an in-depth piece because I was too focused on coming up with the idea for the “greatest front page ever.” (Note: Compared to the absolutely STELLAR work by Jillian McCarter, I’ll save that title for her, because I never came close to the things she can do with an inDesign document and an hour or two.)
As an intern at The Hill, I knew that pushing sources beyond the official statement or “the line” was imperative in order to generate respect and create work that matters, but I stumbled orally around 50 tough questions before I could ask one that was direct with no quiver in my voice.
As an intern at the Wisconsin State Journal, I knew that display type was more important and carried more weight than I had ever been taught, but there were lots of times that I couldn’t get it exactly right until the third time my editor sent it back to me.
As the editor in chief of The Butler Collegian, I’ve spent my first semester putting all of those pieces together. Most of the time, it’s been successful. I am insanely proud of what we do. I am insanely proud of my staff members. They endure grueling hours, little pay, difficult sources, a university that (at times) underappreciates their work and, of course, my requests for rewrites upon rewrites and redesigns upon redesigns….and they LOVE every second of it.
There have also been challenges. It’s hard and more than a little tiring to lead a staff. There’s been a bad jumpline on Page 1, several corrections and a million ethical landmines. There are pieces of this puzzle that I don’t have yet because I’m still learning.
But that really doesn’t bother me. I find absolute joy in what I do. I am 100 percent committed to my work, my staff and the importance of this field. The best part about what I do is that there is always something new to learn and always a chance for innovation. The most important part is that I keep trying.
I hope everyone is having a joyous and peaceful 2012. I can’t wait for the semester to start back up again and to keep the updates going!