When I agreed last spring to be co-editor of The Spartan, I thought it would be a small time commitment. Run a meeting on Wednesday afternoons, design the paper every other Sunday and write a story here or there. Back in March, I had no idea being co-editor would become such a large part of who I am.
My life has been consumed by The Spartan, but I’m not complaining.
Emails forwarded daily with the subject line: “story idea?” Editing stories on a Friday evening. Writing the last-minute stories other writers aren’t available to cover. Going out and ending up in a conversation about the Spartan, every weekend, without fail. I have found it impossible to go a single day without doing something Spartan-related.
Although I had taken classes on writing, editing and designing, I still had so much to learn this semester. Mostly how to handle situations where readers, sources or even staff have a concern. As editors, Callie Ginter and I are the ones who talk with people when situations arise. Other people can make mistakes and no one knows, but a journalist makes a mistake and everyone sees it. This has been one of the most challenging, but also one of my favorite parts of the job.
What many people don’t understand is you can’t burn bridges as an editor the way you can in daily life. As an individual, you can disagree and tell the other person exactly how you feel, but as a professional, you have to be careful, because you don’t want to break trust and lose a good source or valued reader. So you acknowledge that you see their point, but defend your writer and your choices in the end.
Another challenge of being editor is deciding what can run and what can’t. Our adviser helps us out a lot with stories and giving advice on what to include, but sometimes it’s up to us. Sometimes we don’t know when to ask the writer to give us more information on something like the survey they conducted. Sometimes we don’t know if a quote is accurate or if we should cut a story in length. We try our best, but yes, we make mistakes because we are still learning.
And to those of you who think no one reads the Spartan, although that’s a little contradictory since clearly you are reading it right now, I dare you to write something and see how many people contact you about it, how many people will ask you a question or suggest a follow-up story on a similar topic. You will be amazed by how much feedback you get.
Amid all this insanity, being co-editor of The Spartan is one of the more enjoyable things I’ve done. I’m getting experience I can use after I graduate, learning about the community and doing my favorite thing: writing. Three issues down, many more to go and I can’t even imagine how much more I will learn before it’s all over.