Category Archives: Editing

Finishing up

As I write this, we have nine papers left this semester.

This is also my last required blog post for my online media class, so I probably won’t be writing again until it’s over and I have my summary judgment.

So, here’s a list of the things I learned that I didn’t expect to:

  • The daily beatdown will get you every time. The daily wear-and-tear is something you don’t really take into account when you get into a job like managing editor. I had this huge vision for what I wanted to accomplish and the things I wanted to improve, but in the end, I was hampered by my daily duties at the paper — like putting together the calendar or doing payroll. That’s not to say that I didn’t accomplish any of those lofty goals, but the everyday struggle made it many times more difficult than I anticipated.
  • If there’s a recurring problem, it will probably happen again. Call it hubris, but I had always attributed the Alligator’s minimal staff to management just not trying hard enough to keep a full staff at the paper. After feeling like I was running repeatedly into a brick wall with that problem, I don’t think that anymore. I only have theories on why we can’t keep a full staff — the economy, the state of the industry, lack of incentives — but none of them include management not caring. One of my top priorities going into this job was having a full staff, and it was one I didn’t achieve. Maybe there is a way to get out of the cycle, but the problem was more deep-rooted than I had ever imagined. Falling back into that cycle of being shortstaffed was one of my greatest disappointments this semester.
  • I don’t want to be a manager again for about 20 years. I think I’ve done a reasonably good job as managing editor, but I’m ready to go back to being a peon. It’s so much harder to take care of 20 other people’s concerns and put out a good project. Sitting in class for half an hour today, I got text messages from four people about Alligator-related issues. The work of a manager is never done. I’ve had a good run, and it was fun while it lasted, but I feel like I was playing at being 45. I’m ready to go back to being 21.

Also, reading the post about editing student newspapers that Meranda Watling wrote in response to me starting this blog, I feel like I understand her feelings now in a way I didn’t at the beginning of this semester. In particular, this sentence stands out to me:

I remember making mistakes that decades of other students had made before me, and I’ve since seen people make mistakes I made.

In a way, it’s comforting to know that I’m part of a cycle. Yes, I’ve made mistakes, and the managing editors after me will, too. But maybe — and I’m holding out hope for this one — they can learn from the mistakes I’ve made.

If that happens, even in a small way, I’ll feel like what I’ve done here has been a success.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Editing, Managing

The end of election era in the newsroom

It’s a strange feeling whenever a long-term news story wraps up.

And when it’s a story like the election — one that’s been going on for about two years — it’s a kind of void in the life of the newsroom.

No more stories slugged “election,” “voting,” “Obama” or “McCain.” No candidates or celebrities coming to town to stump. No political groups relentlessly pestering our section editors for coverage.

Although it’s weird not to have those things, which have been staples of our fall semester, the general newsroom feeling is one of relief. It’s like crossing a finish line, and everyone is sick of the constant stream of political stories. Sure, it makes it easy to fill the paper, but it gets old fast. I can name every leader of the on-campus political groups and every official remotely involved with local elections.

Our metro editor was ridiculously organized: she knew exactly what each freelancer and staff writer was working on, and got stories in at a great pace. It was one of those nights when you’re not sure how things get in by deadline — but somehow, they do.

In the end, I’m really proud of our election coverage. I think we were able to do the job of both a local and a student paper. We summarized the amendments. We broke a story about one of UF’s prominent Republican students voting for Obama that gained national media attention. We did the everyday election stories and the offbeat.

I’m proud to have been a top editor over these stories. At a campus newspaper, you have a rare opportunity to concentrate on aspects of the election ignored at larger papers. I’m glad our reporters have clips that reflect that.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editing

Dead to me: Alligator Special Editions

Allow me to express my hatred of the Alligator’s 40-odd page special editions.

I guess I shouldn’t whine. After all, college students still read campus newspapers — which is why we have enough ads to print 40-page editions in the first place.

But last year when I was copy desk chief, I called the then-editor in tears from the Alligator’s bathroom after working a 12-hour day and still having multiple pages to edit. The culprit? The New Student Edition, which we mail to freshmen before the fall semester starts.

I can’t even look at the New Student Edition anymore. It gives me PTSD.

So, this year, as the homecoming edition approached, I embraced my inner bad cop.

Stories would be due two days before the paper, I mandated. Photo requests should be filled out in a timely manner. We had stories written on the white board and a system for assigning them.

I discussed my phobia of special editions with the staff during our many homecoming meetings.

“Thus, if stories are not in on time, heads will roll,” I said in my scary voice.

And suddenly, the homecoming edition was upon us. All the section editors were terrified about filling space.

Filling out the budget tonight, I had to cut stories or put them online-only. I had the page schedules turned in to production two hours early — we even finished the paper before deadline.

The moral of the story? Organization counts.

And scaring people doesn’t hurt, either.

1 Comment

Filed under Editing, Managing

Define: Managing Editor

At the career fair this week, I found myself explaining my job to recruiters, which is like summarizing this blog into a few sentences under a lot of pressure.

After a short line about how much I hate doing payroll, I explain my job as managing editor in two parts: first as the managing half, then as the editor half.

Putting on my managing hat, I say that we owe the journalism students at UF whatever experiences they can’t get out of the journalism school. With people like Pat Thornton, a new media advocate, painting j-schools as obsolete — whether or not that’s true — we have a chance to help supplement UF undergraduates’ journalism education. We shouldn’t take that responsibility lightly. The Alligator needs to fully use its online and print departments to give students firsthand experience they won’t get in class.

As editor, I say we owe the UF community information. After all, that’s the Alligator’s tagline: “We inform. You decide.” I used the recent Student Government elections as an example of how we do that at the Alligator and why it matters. I was part of an organization that pushed more than 10,000 students toward the polls for a Student Government election. As an editor, I have an impact on daily events and on how the people who read our paper respond to the news around them. I can’t take that responsibility lightly, either.

Hopefully, that explanation was good enough for the recruiters.

2 Comments

Filed under Editing, Managing

Management on deadline

Wednesday night, we had Student Government elections, aka deadline nightmare.

To combat that, we had an extended deadline of 2 a.m., an hour past our normal deadline. We had bloggers, reporters and editors at the event — all waiting for the results.

And those results were not available by press time.

So, what do you do? Well, you write the editorial on voter turnout. You run a vague cartoon.

But that wasn’t the main problem — the problem was getting people to turn in those stories on time when they were waiting for the results and the editor in chief and I were in the newsroom.

Things I learned:

  • Let people know that deadlines are inflexible. No, we can’t wait another 15 minutes. We need it now. Remind them of this every five minutes.
  • Have everyone’s cell phone number. Cell phone batteries die — call the person the reporter is with, whether it’s an editor or photographer.
  • Always leave time to edit, even if it’s only five minutes. We were saved a couple factual errors by on-deadline editing.
  • Be ready to change focus at any minute. Our reporters did a great job of changing the focus of their print story from results to voter turnout in about 20 minutes. Have story outlines written for every possible scenario.
  • Be firm — then be nice. Feel free to get scary on deadline, but after it’s over, make sure to commend people for their hard work. After all, another paper goes out tomorrow.

Good thing the Internet exists — we ran the updated results story online at about 4 a.m. after the results were announced.

And hey, if you don’t make deadline, there are always other stress management options …

Me on deadline, photo by Kristin Bjornsen.

Me on deadline, photo by Kristin Bjornsen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editing, Managing

Liveblogs!

I’m so proud of our Student Government election liveblogs, despite the aspersions cast on my musical taste.

Seriously, though, they were really well-done. I think the quality was on-par with some of the political liveblogging I’ve seen on mainstream blogs like Gawker.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editing

Managing during the big story

Despite making calls to the Alligator’s lawyer, filing public records requests and working on school projects, I’ve somehow managed to stay alive through this weekend.

But it’s all worth it — because we just published one of the best investigative pieces on Student Government I’ve seen in my time at the Alligator.

When you get anonymous e-mail printouts sent in a manilla envelope to your office, and especially when they have to do with Student Government, you take them seriously. But that brings up a slew of management issues, too.

We decided to only tell section editors and a few reporters about the documents, mainly to protect our scoop on the issue. And we decided that it was pressing enough to warrant me, Ken Schwencke (managing editor for online) and Jessie DaSilva (editor in chief) being more involved in the story than usual. We pulled public records and made phone calls to the Alligator’s lawyer. I feel like we spent the majority of our weekend just asking advice from professors and any expert we could find.

When a story like this falls into your lap, you don’t take it for granted. But it’s nervewracking. You realize that you’re putting the paper’s reputation and people’s careers on the line.

Sitting in the production room tonight editing pages, I was flipping out over late deadlines and general pressure. Our opinions editor told me to calm down because we had a groundbreaking, amazing story. I responded that worry is what I do best.

I’ve learned that worry is a part of management. My tendency to worry over everything makes me a good manager, I think, because I try to fix everything I see wrong.

But it can take the joy out of doing what I love.

So tonight, I’m taking the 15 minutes before I fall asleep to take a break from worrying, and to remember that — despite having to eat lunch in my car or averaging four hours of sleep — I think my job is perfect.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editing, Managing