Managing, editing and communicating at a college newspaper

I started working at the Independent Florida Alligator in January 2007 mainly because I didn’t want to get rusty during a semester with no journalism classes. I took the job I thought would allow me to spend the least time at work: copy editing once a week.

I laugh now when I think about wanting to spend less time in the newsroom. A year and a half and thousands of hours in the newsroom later, I’m managing editor for print of the Alligator.

When I explain my position to people, I say that I’m human resources, accounting, management and editorial rolled into one. I usually work about 50 hours a week. I’m also taking four classes.

All that said: I love my job.

I got the idea for this blog from a blog post I wrote about a month ago. I said that the managers of college newspapers faced decisions and failures to communicate that would baffle people who manage full-size newspapers.

In response to my post, Bryan Murley over at Innovation in College Media made the following point:

“I know of few campus activities that put inexperienced people in such high-level decision-making positions basically on their own (the football team has a coaching staff, the theatre department has directors, etc., but the newspaper staff – most of the time – has an ‘adviser,’ who doesn’t make editorial decisions).”

It’s scary doing my job because I know that the decisions that I make, along with the other top editors, affect our staff, the subjects of our stories and our entire readership. So I’m learning on the job about how to make those choices.

I plan to use this blog to express my joys, frustrations and exhaustion induced by managing one of the largest student-run papers in the country. Don’t expect any salacious newsroom gossip or detailed accounts of arguments with staff — I’m the soul of discretion.

But I do hope that any manager at college papers across the country can use this as a sort of manual. I want people to learn from my mistakes and experiences so that college news organizations can mature. Like a professor once told me: If your bakery (i.e. newsroom) can put out bread (i.e. a  newspaper) daily, that’s fine. If you can run a bakery, that’s better.

If you blog about college media, please leave a link in the comments — I’d love to hear about other experiences and start a conversation.

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4 Comments

Filed under Editing, Managing

4 responses to “Managing, editing and communicating at a college newspaper

  1. historyontherun

    Heya, good idea for a blog. I was EIC at the DTH at UNC last year, so holler if you ever want to complain or talk. My Twitter is zureick.

  2. adamhemphill

    As a former managing editor (albeit at a much smaller paper), we’ve probably shared some similar experiences. I look forward to seeing what you have to say.

  3. jenbingaman

    I would just like to be lame and give a shout out to that neon pink shirt peeking out of the top left of your head.

    I’d also like to say that this is a very good start Ms. Lehman…

  4. Kelly-Anne

    Hey, Hilary! My friend found your blog online while researching college newspapers. Both of us used to work at the Alligator back in the day. She was a copy editor and I … well, I held a lot of positions throughout the years. Haha. Anyway, 1) beautiful blog and bravo on the dedication. You seem like a fantastic ME 2) Is your photo one of the Alligator??? Cause I must say, it looks a HECK of a lot better than when I worked there! (2003-2005) Best of luck.

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