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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Being a Part of The Circle

In past posts, I've mentioned Marist's student newspaper, The Circle. I have never gone into great detail about the publication, but last night was production night and it got me thinking about how stressful yet rewarding it is. It is my nature to have a high-stress level and sort of freak out easily, so you can imagine how panicked I become. (One production night, maybe 10 minutes in, I had a question for one of the managing editors and he made the joke: "You have a problem already?" I guess my colleagues have learned to anticipate my crises.) Nonetheless, I keep going back because it's pretty awesome and fun.

As a freshman, I started out as a "Circle contributor," which means you submit articles only sometimes. Eager to please, I was soon bumped up to "staff writer," which means I had written a certain number of articles. Sophomore year I became the newspaper representative at the Student Government Association (SGA) meetings. Next, I started copy editing, and by the end of junior year I was co-news section editor. 

Even though I still sometimes write articles, I mainly focus on running the news section. What that means is that my co-editor and I are responsible for: pitch stories and creating a weekly news budget, finding and motivating reporters, maintaining good rapport with SGA, and handling layout. Within itself, layout has many components. We have to physically lay out where the articles are going to go, if they will fit and how they are going to break, and where to put any accompanying photos. We have to also figure out teasers, which, for our publication, are two rectangular boxes above the banner that convey: "Hey, go look in this other section to read this really neat article!" Except the parts really are: [section name], [page number of article], [quippy tag line about article]. Other elements we are responsible for include: stand-alone photos, photo captions and credits, drop quotes, and headlines. 

Unfortunately, my co-editor's work hours overlap with production nights (which are every Tuesday night when the laying out and freaking out occur) so when I run into a problem or need her help I have to wait for her to get there. As other editors can testify to, this does add to my stress level when something goes awry (or I perceive it to go awry) and my co-editor hasn't arrived yet. Just last night, I had a layout dilemma and had to bug the copy chief and editor-in-chief about it. However, I am always grateful when my co-editor arrives because the things that are not my forte, are her forte.

One of the things I lack talent for is writing photo captions. Sounds easy, but everything I write ends up sounding lame. This is one of the things I leave for my co-editor, so whenever I print out a layout draft before she gets there, all the photo captions say "tktktktktktktk" (meaning "to come"). As I proclaimed two posts ago, I am also not too great at headline writing, and when I get stuck it takes me forever to come up with something. At professional publications, copy editors are typically in charge of headlines, but at The Circle the section editors usually write them. Mine usually get edited or changed. Last night, I just could not seem to come up with anything that didn't sound like I wrote it for filler. Of course, I ended up bothering my editor-in-chief, which I probably shouldn't have done because thinking of headlines for his editors is not his job. 

Anyways, I became so wound up that I think I may have yelled at my editor-in-chief after he said something like: "I don't like the negativity I hear." I'm probably making myself out to be this high-maintenance editor who does not even do her job well, but I figure I must be doing something right because they keep me around. 

Even though working at The Circle does cause in-the-moment stress during production nights, it is always, always, always worth it. At the end of the night, when everything is done and layout is locked in, not only do I feel relieved, but I also feel a great sense of satisfaction. I anticipate when the paper comes out on Thursday to see people picking up copies and reading the product that everyone worked so hard on. 

It's funny to me how people pick up a copy of the paper every other week (when we don't print hard copy editions, we run the articles on our website) without a second thought, and a few days later you see the copies on the ground or in the trash. People may only pay attention to each edition for a few days, or maybe only a few hours, but it somehow does not diminish the rewarding feeling I get, because if the editors didn't work so hard, no one would be able to read those articles in the first place.

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