Patrick Bryant ’16 – As I prepare to take over the Editor-in-chief position for the 2014-15 production of The Bachelor, it meant a great deal to me that I had an opportunity to attend the “Inside the Times” Student Editors’ Conference that welcomed college students from a number of universities to The New York Times building in Manhattan. We had the opportunity to hear from a number of Times editors, including senior editors in copy editing, an associate managing editor responsible for weekend content, and editors who have responsibilities in newer multimedia areas.
Before I share with you some of what we learned, I want to first share some anecdotes from what I observed in conversing with students from other publications. At our table, we were joined by the Editor-in-chief and two section editors from Brigham Young University and an Editor-in-chief and section editor from Queen’s College in New York City. I get used to thinking of the size and reach of The Bachelor staff as the norm for most collegiate publications, forgetting that many universities have journalism programs with a few thousand students. These editors are very insulated from the writing and page design that each and every member of our staff has to concern themselves with. Where one could call that a drawback, I see it as the liberal arts at work. Where I have friends and classmates from my high school newspaper publication having to wait until their junior year to begin writing for the paper, our guys have the opportunity to start writing from the first week on. I made a comment to the editors from BYU that often times the new staffers for The Bachelor do not have prior experience and that some of us higher-level editors take time to teach them how to use InDesign. How did they respond? Turns out that they did not really know how to use InDesign either. They had designers who were insulated from their position and responsible for the page design. Again, this is a testament to the well-rounded men that are learning everyday inside and outside of the classroom. Elsewhere there are formal journalism programs teaching less than what our extracurricular group teaches peer-to-peer.
When I think of the nature of the staff, I am quick to think that our prime responsibilities are generating content: coming up with story ideas, interviewing, writing, copy editing, page layout, and distribution. I was enthused by this conference and the testimonials we heard that there are ways that we, with our manpower, can find ways to innovate. One way is copy editing. We received a great deal of literature for copy editing “tips and tricks” and got some practice in proofreading and headline writing. Also, we talked about the evolving media and the variety of forms it’s taking place in. Recently, The Bachelor started a Twitter handle @WabCoBachelor. Testimonials from editors in the realm of social media lead me to believe that we can do a better job in engaging our audience through social media. Sending out links and referencing stories is one thing, but creating a dialogue where users can generate content and conservation. Ideally, through this avenue, this could be a marketing tool for the print edition for The Bachelor, but also a supplementary forum for print content.
These opportunities to learn are invaluable to the on-campus collaboration and innovation that are taking place on a consistent basis. Taking time to ask questions and hear the testimonies of peers at other universities allow the smaller publications like The Bachelor to demonstrate our prowess as an efficient, savvy on-campus resource, but also give us a chance to learn from peer publications in order to improve ours.
Alexander Appreciates Chance to Dive into Journalism
Adam Alexander ’16 – I’ve always wanted to see the Big Apple, but I have never had the opportunity. Thankfully, The New York Times invited The Bachelor to their offices and the College agreed to fund our trip. Patrick Bryant and I learned a great deal on our trip – just as much from the other college editors in the room as from the Times editors.
As a prospective student, one of the biggest downsides of Wabash was the lack of a journalism program. I’ve wanted to at least pursue a minor in journalism for many years. But when I saw how other schools with established journalism programs run their newspapers, I became very grateful for Wabash’s unique journalistic opportunities. Editors from the other schools with whom we spoke all seemed to indicate that to even be considered for the newspaper staff, you had to be a sophomore. The editors at our table from Brigham Young University said that they recruit the best students from introductory-level journalism courses; very few of them ever have the chance to become an editor. I, on the other hand, was able to walk onto The Bachelor staff and fill the role of Copy Editor at the beginning of my freshman year. This is a tremendous example of the benefits of a small school like Wabash over bigger universities.
The other editors also seemed to be a bit removed from the whole process of putting the newspaper together. While Patrick and I write stories every week, most of the students at the conference had not written a story the entire year. In addition, very few of them knew how to use Adobe InDesign, the program used to create the actual pages of the paper. When we talked about having to teach each other how to use InDesign, one of the editors in the room said, “That’s what we pay the designers for.” I feel as if they identified significant drawbacks within their own system – they were all so specialized that they did not know how to operate any other part of the paper.
Of course, the Times editors themselves were very helpful. I personally took away great copy editing advice through the use of examples. I learned to be more vigilant of a writer’s math; in one example, an increase from 75 to 90 was cited as a 15% increase. This seems relatively minor, but I believe the whole point of copy editing is to make our stories seem as credible and professional as possible. Little things like typos and math errors undermine The Bachelor’s credibility, so it is my job fix those. We also were given several pieces of general advice for writing stories.
In addition to my personal takeaways of new editing techniques, I think we really learned where we have to take The Bachelor in the future. In order for it to be a sustainable voice of the student body, we are going to have to put a website together. This is not going to be overnight, but I think we can begin discussion now and at least have an online presence (beyond a mere Twitter account) by the time I graduate. We will definitely need more manpower though – as well as an infographic designer.