Thinking Like an Editor

It’s day one in Louisville and I’m basically in heaven. Everywhere I turn there are people, my own age, with similar interests and passions ready and willing to discuss their newspapers, whether they be weekly or daily, 24 pages or 3 pages. I find it fascinating that one could ever question the future of journalism (and newspapers in particular) when we are surrounded with students determined to ensure it not only stays afloat…but is successful! Each conference I have attended so far has not only strengthened my knowledge as a leader of The Pendulum, but also reaffirmed the love I have for the profession of journalism.

The first session I attended I just stumbled upon because I wasn’t able to find the correct room for the session I did hope to attend, but I am very glad I did. Bill Elsen, retired from The Washington Post discussed the topic of “thinking like an editor.” When the session first started, I assumed he meant what it takes to polish off a sentence or make a story concise. Rather, he talked about office politics, something that I feel is very important for any group of people working together.

Some of the main points I noted included:

  • Think about your online presence – don’t just shovel stories online after the print edition comes out, but have originality online! He also suggested hiring a managing editor for the online paper, something I had never thought of.
  • Motivate people! Take time to point out negative¬†and positive criticism – just be sure to do it in the right environment.
  • Get work done ahead of time. This includes staggering deadlines, designing pages early and communicating with reporters throughout the week.
  • Don’t get hung up on the present. Think 2-3 weeks ahead.

I feel like as a staff, some of the points he made are already well-implemented in our office. We started staggering deadlines in order to better get content up online and I know I have worked to communicate well with reporters about deadlines, etc. But in many cases, these stories we put online were then run again, 4-5 days later, in the print edition, something that absolutely needs to change. We are a group of talented, dedicated young people and I know we have enough motivation to write enough content to not only fill the pages of our paper, but also add originality to our website. So, while we may already be successful in some areas, I believe there is always room for improvement, no matter what, and after this session, I have set new goals not only for myself, but for the news section as well.

-Caitlin O’Donnell


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