Getting a newspaper out each week is such an overwhelming task that editors don’t often have time to stop and think about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Dana Eagles, content editor at the Orlando Sentinel, gave what was probably my favorite session of the conference. The session was about editing with a mission, and he addressed the issue a lot of college newspapers are facing: they tend to be publishing their newspapers without a clear sense of purpose.
Though most college newspaper staff members would say they are writing for students at their university, Eagles said it seems that, from the college newspapers he has critiqued, they are actually writing for administrators. This isn’t necessarily referring to the newspapers taking a public relations stance on the articles, but rather to what type of articles the paper is running. Eagles said that by focusing article after article on school building projects, grants that faculty have received and news about the bureaucracy of learning, the news that students care about is getting pushed out of the paper. Sure, faculty and administrators are highly interested in the development of the university. But week after week, page after page, students aren’t reading all of that.
His solution is to stop covering all of the speeches on campus and stop devoting story after to story to all of the meetings the administration has if it isn’t something that is really of importance to students. Eagles also went so far as to stay just stop covering SGA if you are sick of reading SGA stories. As usual, I disagree with some of what he said about stopping coverage of a lot of the boring stuff on campus. Some things need to always be covered by a reporter, but that doesn’t mean the newspaper has to run pointless articles after every meeting. But, I very much do agree that there is no need to cover every speaker who comes to campus and talks about physics or what is going on in Antarctica. Students aren’t interested in it, and they aren’t reading it. So, Eagles challenged us to get rid of the content we know that no one is reading and we know the paper could do without, and to instead actually find the stories that will mean something to the (student) readers.
He also had this great idea about restructuring beats, but I already have been pretty longwinded. So I’ll just keep that idea filed away and maybe share it later.