Four issues into our second semester as a digital first media company, we’ve identified a few obstacles to raising our standard of content. I haven’t been surprised to see new challenges emerge given the drastic changes The Hullabaloo has undergone in the last six months, and thankfully, I find them to be more easily fixed than others.
The first is training associates and staff reporters to edit using AP style, enough to prepare them to take an editor position when the time comes. When we edited on paper, associates’ jobs largely consisted of entering in corrections that their editors made. That process slowed down production significantly, but one byproduct was more-or-less educating associates on basic AP style and content-based edits. Without this process, it appears that a stronger relationship between the copy editing staff and the section editors/associates needs to exist. I was lucky, and take for granted, that I began as a copy editor and therefore have worked closely with AP style.
There are multiple ways to go about this problem, including training sessions, bringing associates in to copy edit alongside copy editors during print production nights, inserting them into the editing process by creating an additional round of edits, etc. All of these possibilities have their pros and cons. Identifying this problem, and brainstorming, is the first step toward figuring it out, though.
The second is a lack in photography in the field, which stems from the difficulty in prompting reporters to take extra steps in adding multimedia to their stories. There is only so much that one photo editor can do to cover all the stories The Hullabaloo produces given its newly consistent flow of online content. Mobilizing the masses, per say, is much easier said than done. Training reporters to feel comfortable taking and uploading photos, videoing snippets and live-tweeting events is time-consuming and relies heavily on repetition. This routine has not been established.
While sections editors have begun to embrace using the (mostly) website, twitter and in some cases iPhone shots in the absence of professional cameras, this drive to add multimedia needs to increase. I believe a degree of this technology has become second nature for many on staff, and it is time for them to push further. As they move forward, however, we need to pass down our knowledge of digital journalism, not only concerning written content but also multimedia.
Education, especially lasting education, in my opinion, is the biggest challenge that college newspapers face. Theoretically, a fourth of the staff graduates every year. Professional newsrooms (not to say that our University paper is not professional) can build up that knowledge over decades, but often in our case, seniors graduate and leave with knowledge that has yet to be shared. Multimedia presents a particularly difficult obstacle, as well. We can write manuals and guides for content and AP style because it evolves relatively slowly, but the same cannot be said for the digital part of digital journalism.
Informal, hands-on training, I would argue, is the way to go. The Hullabaloo has only one adviser, who splits her time between us and a large chunk of other clubs on campus. We’ve got to just jump into the ring and, starting with even one other reporter, pull the whole newsroom in with us. We can figure it out as we go — that’s what every good journalist is doing.