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Value of College Newspaper Experience

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Eagleboy, Nov 5, 2006.

  1. Eagleboy

    Eagleboy Guest

    Hello all,

    As the cliche goes, long time reader, first time writer. I'm currently in a little bit of a dilemma myself that I'm hoping at least one, but preferably many, can help me out with.

    Right now, I'm a junior at a major D-I university and the sports editor of the daily newspaper. I cover both the men's basketball and football teams, in addition to the standard copy editing duties, etc. that come with the job. The newspaper itself is fine in terms of quality - we don't win awards at conferences or any crap like that but we hold our own in terms of news.

    In a nutshell, my dilemma is this - I can't stand the current higher-ups because, for lack of a matter, they're utterly incompetent and very self-centered. These individuals were given their positions because they ran unopposed and do little more than complain and bitch about their job every night (while doing a poor job at it). On a whole, the people don't have a clue what they're doing and because I've had conflicts in the past, they have little tolerance for me when I try to speak my opinion on what we should or should not do.

    The pieces are in place for me to have a summer internship at a well-respected newspaper and I get along great with the beat writers I work with. I have had pieces published on major websites and I have an itching to just focus on my degree at this point and drop the school newspaper and try to get any freelance/stringer opportunities that are out there, but I have a feeling that it's easier said than done.

    The couple people I've talked to (parents, close friends) said to just stick it out and keep to myself, but I already dread anything having to do with the office. Does working for a paper, especially on a major D-I beat, do anything to get a job? Or should I look elsewhere because of the irreconcilable differences?

    Hope you experts can help!
  2. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    The bullshit at a college paper is the same at a regular paper. If you don't like it now, you won't like it any better later.
  3. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    While Dyepack's point is well-taken ... there is bullshit in every office setting ...

    I think you're better off working in a professional setting if you get the chance. You'll work with people who have a wider variety of backgrounds and experience (life and otherwise), which will better prepare you for the future. College kids don't rule the "real world" when you get out here, so you're best served learning how to deal with adults (mature and otherwise ;D) in adult workplace situations.

    (Caveat: I'm biased. I had a similar experience at my college paper (paging Hoops ... ::)), with the "higher-ups" that were in place then. I soon hooked on with a "real" paper near my school, and earned more responsibility there than I ever would have at the school's rag. Don't regret the decision for a minute.)
  4. Lollygaggers

    Lollygaggers Member

    It probably depends a lot on what you want to do. You're the sports editor, but you also write, but you more than likely won't be doing both after college. If you want to write, you'd be pretty safe ditching the gig and freelancing or finding another publication to write for (if it really is a major D-1 program, there should be someone else covering them). If you like editing, though, it's really hard to get the experience elsewhere. Stepping away from the office/professional setting for just six months can put you behind the eight ball pretty quickly. Everyone's right that you'll experience all this after school anyway, but you also only go to college once. I was glad I decided not to cover a major beat my senior year and focused on editing/designing a few nights a week so that I could enjoy the time I had left at school. So there is good and bad either way. And, as the other old cliche goes, the ball is in your court.
  5. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    I never wrote for my college paper. In fact, I never wrote for any newspapers until I got out of college. Although I've been doing this for 17 years, I can't help but wonder how much that holds me back even to this day, if there's some foundation that you can only get working at a college paper between the ages of 18 and 22 that you can never get later in life elsewhere.
  6. outofplace

    outofplace Well-Known Member

    What about backing off and doing less at the college paper for a while? I don't think you should pass on the internship, but perhaps leave the door open to come back and work for the college paper as a senior.

    I worked for my college paper all four years I was in school and it was great experience. I pretty much wrote as much as I wanted and had the opportunity to make all kinds of mistakes without the type of repercussions you would face in the real world.

    That said, I still had a hell of a lot to learn after I graduated.
  7. BYH

    BYH Active Member


    Leave the campus paper and never look back.

    If I had to do it all over again, I certainly wouldn't do what I did when I was in your shoes: Get too comfortable at the campus paper and fail to heavily pursue a big paper internship during my final two years of college. I remember walking around campus during my fourth year (i.e. my junior year) and thinking about how I never wanted to lose this gig. I was writing stories I was proud of, was building great relationships throughout the university and enjoying the (extremely small) slice of celebrity that writing a column with my ugly mug shot afforded me.

    I had a ton of daily experience at my hometown paper and figured that would be enough for me to revel in college life as a fifth-year senior and still land a kick-ass job after graduation. It wasn't.

    I regret my choice and that I wasn't confident enough back then to step out of my comfort zone. And life at the school paper my last year was pretty hellish. I wasn't happy as the managing editor, wasn't happy playing good cop to the bad cop EIC and wasn't happy writing 10 stories a week. And I knew I'd hurt myself by staying on campus. I realized too late I'd stayed too long. Better to leave while the going is good (though it sounds like the going is pretty shitty for you, which should make this decision an even bigger no-brainer).

    Meanwhile, one of my best friends--and the best and most natural journalist I've ever worked with--left the cocoon in search of an internship at a major daily. After several waves of rejection--so many that he was reduced to tears--he landed at a local major for his senior year. Today, he's kicking all sorts of ass at the LA Times.

    If you're serious about making this a career, then compiling agate and writing 8-inch puff pieces on local youth sports will help you out far more than kicking ass on campus. Because trust me: Like a new car whose resale value falls thru the floor as soon as you drive it off the lot, what you did at college is completely irrelevant the moment you graduate.

    Good luck.
  8. Crimson Tide

    Crimson Tide Member

    Fuck the college paper. I never worked for the college paper. I was good enough to pull a part-time gig at two different 30K+ circulation papers. As a sophomore, I was offered an internship I didn't apply for at a major metro (ended up just keeping the job I had) based on that first job while all the other student journalists couldn't figure out why they couldn't find a place to intern.

    If you think you're that good, go for it. It will pay off.
  9. beanpole

    beanpole Member

    work at the college paper is meaningless. Employers will only care about your professional work, be it internships, part time or freelance.
  10. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Go for the summer internship. My college paper published 2x week in the summer and wasn't anything special, if that's how your paper is or it doesn't publish at all, certainly go for that internship.

    But while school's in session, unless you're getting a very steady diet of freelancing gigs or you can hook on part-time at the town paper, I would suggest keeping a foot in the college paper. Don't worry about the people around you, at the end of the day all that matters are the clips and the lines on the resume saying you were there. I do think college newspaper work matters if you're doing something every day. That's close to real-life journalism, as opposed to stringing once a month for the AP.

    I know what you're talking about with the clueless higher-ups and the conflicts-- every college newspaper staff is convinced the world revolves around them. Perspective hasn't quite set in for most at age 20. But in 10 years you'll look back on it and just laugh, and (hopefully) realize that experience was the start to a good career.
  11. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    I agree, you're going to run into bullshit everywhere. Welcome to the business!

    Though I've never hired specifically for a newspaper job, when I see resumes and portfolios I place more emphasis on "real world" work than college work. The college media is still a controlled environment.

    Tangent: while I understand that recent grads may not have much more to show, it drives me nuts when kids list class projects on their resumes. Come on, that's class work. If you're so proud that you list assignments on your resume, that tells me you spent way too much time partying in college.

    Back on topic: don't leave just because of stupid people; you can't outrun them forever. Leave because of the experience you'll get.
  12. whatgives

    whatgives New Member

    Working at the college paper and working as a freelancer each have value. If you have enough freelance opprtunities to keep you busy, drop the paper. But make sure you have enough because you don't want to end up doing nothing.
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