‘Thinking like an editor’ at #CMANYC13



I was lucky enough to attend this year’s College Media Association’s spring national college media convention in New York City a couple of weeks ago with a number of The Gatepost’s editors.

It was a phenomenal experience to say the least.  Not only was it my first time in NYC, but I also had the chance to attend some extremely informative seminars and keynote speaker sessions.  The keynote speakers included Co-host of the 9 a.m. hour of NBC’s the “Today Show” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Willie Geist, Vice President and Publisher of Teen Vogue Jason Wagenheim and Twitter’s Manager of Journalism and News, Founder of the digital journalism blog 10,000 Words and Author of “The Digital Journalist’s Handbook” Mark Luckie.  I also got to meet CBS’ “60 Minutes” Associate Producer Sumi Aggarwal at an informational session about landing a job in journalism.

The convention even had its own Twitter hashtag: #CMANYC13.

Among the seminars I attended, one of my favorites was the very first one I went to: “Thinking Like an Editor” with Bill Elsen, who formerly worked for The Washington Post and is now a consultant for three college newspaper websites.  According to the seminar’s description in the Official Convention Program, “You can be terrific at making story assignments, editing copy, writing headlines, designing pages and the other nuts and bolts of producing a publication – if you master the not-so-obvious.  Learn how to manage people, avert crises and generally not drive yourself nuts.”

I figured I’d share my own notes from the seminar:

Elsen remarked that being a student journalist is difficult – they have to go to class, they’re not just working for a newspaper.

He said there are two leadership skills student editors need to have:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Versatility

Elsen said student editors:

  • Can’t be just one thing (i.e. a reporter) anymore (both in their current roles and future ones).  They need to be able to be everything, including “mojos”: mobile journalists
  • Multimedia is and will continue to play a huge role in journalism

He said there are a few things student editors need to have in place at their papers:

  1. Mission Statement that says, “This is what we do, our job is to serve… (students, faculty, staff, alums, grandma even)
  2. Publish a staff manual containing jobs and their descriptions
  3. Make a localized stylebook – more than just AP.  There should be an online version and it should be made available to everyone
  4. Learn to accept constructive criticism
  5. Improve website
  6. Provide for the people who work for you, which includes:

–        Good time management

–        Making priorities

–        Gaining respect and being a leader

–        Being the best reporter, editor, photo chooser, video shooter, photographer and audio tech. (Elsen reminded students to not photograph someone in the middle of a picture, but on either side)

–        Provide skills

He said in terms of understanding ethics and legal issues (he advised students to learn about FERPA, which he said is the “biggest crutch used in the U.S.”):

  • Be careful
  • Definitely use “declined to comment”

Elsen asked, “Can you deal with people – especially your own age?”  He advised:

  • Don’t criticize other editors/staff members in front of everyone – pull them aside in the hallway
  • Compliment them in front of everyone

He said to use good judgment

  • Always ask for help
  • Make friends with computer people!
  • Meet with advisor on a regular basis (he said, “a good one will keep their nose out of business for the most part – it’s your paper not theirs)
  • Dialogue

He said responsibility to audience is:

  • Not to the university president, etc. – “grown up jerks who think we don’t know enough to write good, clean journalism”

–        Work around these people

Elsen said to cross train the staff to:

  • Have many kills
  • Be mojos

–        Focus on their skills first

–        Cross training is a great way to avoid last-minute issues

In order to avoid last-minute issues, Elsen advised to keep a scoreboard in Dropbox of everything for a given issue:

–        Page numbers

–        Headlines

–        What has and hasn’t been copyedited

–        What photos/graphics have/need

–        Links to websites

  • Managing editors are in charge of in order to keep track of what is and isn’t done

Elsen talked about what he called the “inverted inverted pyramid” – the order/organization of the newsroom:

  • Associate editors – maybe have one for print and one for online
  • Editors of sections and website

In terms of trainingnewbies,” he said:

  • They can’t email stories in – they should be in the newsroom with you, so you can go through stories with them
  • Assign freshmen to go around buildings, read bulletin boards and meet secretaries in order to develop beats (story ideas)

He said to have as manybudget” – planning – meetings as possible

He advised to not use Twitter too much

He said to never email criticism

In terms of dealing withproblem people,” he said:

  • Make clear what behavior is unacceptable
  • First time something happens, take that person aside and tell them
  • Establish a pattern – three strikes and you’re out

He said if university gives newspaper a hard time about having own website to:

  • Do it anyway
  • Be objective
  • Be truthful
  • Be accurate

To see an infographic I think is pertinent to aspiring journalists and student newspaper editors, go hereDesigner is unknown via visual.ly.

The above pictures are via http://nyc13.org/.


2 thoughts on “‘Thinking like an editor’ at #CMANYC13

  1. Pingback: #newsieconfessions | Checklists to the rescue!

  2. Pingback: #newsieconfessions | Office etiquette

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