Editors-in-chief spill Seven Sisters journalism secrets

Each of the Seven Sisters schools boasts its own unique personality, culture and history, and the same holds true for each institution’s newspaper. Having almost finished my fifth semester with The Miscellany News, I decided to explore how my experience in college journalism could have differed had I chosen one of Vassar’s siblings.

I was able to chat via email with Emilia Otte, Lindsey McGinnis and Katie Hazen, editors-in-chief of their newspapers at The Bi-College News (Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges), The Mount Holyoke News (Mount Holyoke College) and The Sophian (Smith College), respectively.

They discussed how their individual papers function, ranging from weekly time commitment to the paper’s relationship with the students, as well as reflecting on how they originally got involved. Transcribed below are excerpts of the three Seven Sisters’ editors-in-chiefs’ responses.

The Miscellany News: What is your history at your newspaper? When did you first get in- volved, and what other positions have you held?

Emilia Otte: I started out as a reporter and a copy editor, and I had the opportunity to work with an amazing editor, Lily [Lopate]. My beat became whatever Lily needed covered at the last minute … I went online and read through the NY Times Arts Section in order to teach my- self how to write about dance performances and concerts. I loved the versatility of it.

When I had the opportunity to choose, I gravitated toward writing about students’ efforts to raise money for refugees or organize drives for different causes.

Lindsey McGinnis: I began my newspaper career as a staff writer for Arts & Entertainment and then moved up to section editor my sophomore year. I had the opportunity to work with three different, wonderful co-editors over the following three semesters[.]

Katie Hazen: Before coming to Smith I knew I wanted to be involved with The Sophian, so I started writing for the News section early in my career. I went on to serve as News Editor and Associate Editor before taking on the role of Editor-in-Chief.

The Misc: What is your favorite part about working at [your newspaper]? What is your least favorite part?

Otte: I’ve always loved editing articles. There’s something about taking someone else’s piece and reconstructing it to make it better— it’s like a word puzzle for me.

[My least favorite part is when] I organize a meeting, or try to organize layout for the print paper, and no one shows up … You find yourself thinking: if I were a better organizer, a better advocate, a better person—then they might have come.

McGinnis: As an A&E editor, my favorite thing was mentoring writers and seeing them evolve over time … I didn’t so much care for the teaching, but I loved seeing writers grow and adapting the section to suit their skills.

As Editor-in-Chief, my favorite thing is watching staff members from different backgrounds and social circles bond with one another. There’s something really special about working in a newsroom, and knowing that most of our staff will not be pursuing journalism as a career, I want them to enjoy the experience while it lasts.

Hazen: My favorite part of working at The Sophian is seeing the reaction and engagement each week from students and faculty…My least favorite part is finding inevitable typos each week.

The Misc: What is a typical time commitment for an editorial position at [your newspaper]? How long do you spend per week?

Otte: An hour to hour and a half for meetings, another two/three hours doing final edits, posting articles on the website, and sending out e-mails. When we print the paper edition, however, it’s way more.

We’re in the library media lab for at least 4 hours each day the Saturday and Sunday before the paper is published, and that’s not including time editing the articles.

McGinnis: I spend about 20 hours a week in the newsroom, and then an additional 5 to 10 hours a week working on newspaper related projects. It’s definitely my biggest commitment at school, even over academics.

Hazen: The average time commitment for an editorial position is probably about six hours each week. I don’t even want to think about how much time I spend on The Sophian, but it’s certainly more than six hours per week!

The Misc: How would you describe the relationship between [your newspaper] and the student body at [your school]?

Otte: Honestly, I wish more people would read it … Every once in a while, we’ll print an article that will get a lot of attention, but I don’t know how much we are on people’s radar.

McGinnis: I think that the relationship between students and Mount Holyoke News reflects the relationship between young people and newspapers in general. For example, I love reading the Boston Globe, but I don’t read the paper edition front to back every day.

I think our greatest strength is our independence. Readers can trust that our reports are by and for students, and every so often we’ll tap into a story that people really respond to.

A couple weeks ago we wrote about alums using #MeToo to recount their own experiences of sexual assault on campus, and how the College did or did not respond at the time. If we had a closer relationship to the administration, we might not be able to do these stories.

Hazen: …I’ve seen Smith students far more engaged now with the paper than at any point during my time at Smith. Still, there’s room for improvement.

The Misc: How has the online presence of [your newspaper] evolved since you got involved? Do you think more students engage with [your newspaper] online than in print?

Otte: Ah, interesting story! Last year, our website was actually hacked by (you can’t make this up) Ukrainian hackers. The editors last year had to create an entirely new site, but, unfortunately, we lost all of our archives.

We basically had to start from scratch … I think Bryn Mawr students like print newspapers—we get the NY Times for free at the dining halls on weekdays and I see a lot of people reading it. I’m a big believer in printed newspapers.

McGinnis: We used to have a terrible website. It crashed so often, I can’t even remember what the homepage looked like. Last year, our Editor-in-Chief switched services, and we’re very happy with our current site.

We’re currently trying to establish a solid web team, which is still new territory, but I think it’s going well so far … It’s great to see recent graduates following the Facebook page and commenting online.

Hazen: We have a much more extensive and “branded” social media presence, especially on Instagram! … I think students tend to engage more with print and alumnae more with online.

The Misc: Are you interested in pursuing journalism or working with newspaper in the future? How has your work with [your newspaper] affected your future goals?

Otte: I’m applying to graduate schools right now for a Master’s in Journalism. I want to cover human rights and global development through literary reportage.

The Bi-Co News helped me decide what type of journalism I really enjoy covering, and it helped reinforce some of the lessons my journalism professors tried to teach me. Sometimes you just have to make the mistake yourself, and a college newsroom is a really good place to make those mistakes.

McGinnis: I hope to pursue journalism after I graduate. I knew I liked writing before I joined the News, but working with the paper has helped me realize how much I love to collaborate with other journalists and be part of a team.

Hazen: It’s been a dream of mine to pursue journalism, which is partly why I became so involved with The Sophian … I still hope to pursue journalism, but I’m feeling increasingly pulled toward political communications after last year’s election.

The Misc: Is there anything else you would like to share about your work with [your news- paper]?

Hazen: If you’re curious, you can read The Sophian at thesophian.com! Also, you should all get involved with The Miscellany News!

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