The Carroll News launched its new website, carrollnews.org, last week. It has been very exciting to work on a project that will hopefully benefit our organization and increase our readership. But with the creation of our own online space comes the constant pressure for our paper to be exclusively online.
I can guarantee that, at least during my term as editor-in-chief, this will not happen.
The printed word is sacred. Everything is online these days, so having a print edition of a weekly paper is something truly special. We should be celebrating the fact that we still print, instead of trying to flee it like the plague.
I know those who inquire about transitioning to an exclusively online paper have good intentions. They want The Carroll News to be read by a wider range of people and possibly reach more alumni. They want us to have statistics as to how many people are reading our stories and what kinds of topics are most popular in terms of readership. They hope that being online will encourage new writers to join the paper. They want to see more engagement through people leaving comments. And I agree. These are awesome benefits for being an online publication, which is why I am proud that we’ve created a website and have been actively improving our social media presence. However, these benefits can never outweigh the benefits of publishing a print edition of our paper.
There are numerous skills we learn when creating a print newspaper. First off, we learn about page design and how to use InDesign to create the pages. I will never forget the end of my freshman year, when I began training to be the campus editor, and the previous editors were explaining how to use the program, how to place pictures and all the little quirks of InDesign. It was frustrating and confusing, but after working with it for a year, I can fix almost any problem that arises with InDesign. I’ve learned many skills from just this one portion of doing a print edition. Knowing how to work InDesign (a skill that many communication internships require), having patience to work through difficult problems and circumvent issues, paying attention to small details and creating aesthetically pleasing pages are all benefits I’ve gained from publishing a printed paper.
Second, we have a feeling of community being in the newsroom. My time at John Carroll would be so different if I were not in the newsroom every single Tuesday night that I honestly could not even imagine it. Since my freshman year, I have sat in the newsroom and edited on Tuesdays. There have been times where I was overwhelmed and stressed out. There were nights where I was almost in tears because I had to write three stories and edit an entire section on my own. I’d be writing and transcribing interviews, while trying to get at least one page of my section on the round of editors’ checks that we do with every page. But I learned to be resilient, to write faster and maintain the quality of my work and to trust that the rest of the staff will always be there to support me. I’ve met some incredible people. I’ve laughed the hardest I’ve ever laughed. There are so many jokes that I won’t forget and so many people who have touched my life. The staff you work with, even if you don’t hang out outside of the newsroom, becomes your family. And I have to mention how I met two of my closest friends, Julie and Sophia, in the newsroom. The sense of community you build in that room is undeniable and removing a print edition would completely strip editors of having the invaluable experience of spending Tuesdays in the newsroom.
Third, we’ve learned how to manage people. I have held many leadership positions in the past, but I have never had one that has challenged me as much as being EIC. I manage a staff of around 15 people, each person having his/her own idea of what is best for the paper. There are some strong personalities on the staff, and sometimes I struggle with how to deal with them or what is the best way to handle issues that arise. But this has allowed me to grow in my confidence as a leader because I have to stay strong in what I believe, even when others disagree. And I believe that everyone on the staff would attest to growing in this area because the editors all have to work with other editors, writers and our adviser, and they also have to find the balance of discussing issues while being respectful.
Fourth, we’ve learned to manage details, stay organized and deal with strict deadlines. Basically, every position you can hold on this paper, from writer to EIC, has a lot of responsibility. People on staff have to schedule interviews, learn how to synthesize information for a story, keep track of who is writing what story and a whole bunch of other details. Writers work on deadline to submit their stories, and editors have strict Tuesday night deadlines. One undeniable attribute of our staff is that we are dedicated. The senior editors stay from 5 p.m. to usually 3 a.m. (sometimes even later) to finish the paper. These students basically add a full-time job to their already full schedules through editing the paper, but they also gain time management skills and can brag about their ability to meet deadlines in future interviews.
Finally, there is no better feeling than seeing all your hard work come to fruition in a physical copy of the paper. Seeing people put their phones down for a couple of minutes and flip through the paper makes me so happy. As someone recently explained to me, reading a newspaper is an adventure. You never know what information the next page holds. You discover something new with each turn of a page. When you are online, you can easily be selective as to what information you come across, but in a newspaper you flip through and see a whole bunch of different stories.
The benefits students gain through having a print edition of The Carroll News are clear. It would be a shame to cheat students who are interested in journalism of this experience, especially at a University that doesn’t offer many journalism courses. We should not be scaling back on an activity that allows students to cultivate those skills that are crucial to their future careers.
I can only hope future EICs see the importance of keeping the paper in print and stay strong in demanding that we keep the physical copy.