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Value of College Newspaper Experience

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

  1. Piotr Rasputin

    Piotr Rasputin New Member

    The wisdom of BYH's first post cannot be argued.

    I was in a similar situation, being too happy on the school paper, going for some internships, getting rejected, taking summer school for tougher classes (READ: Foreign language) I didn't want to do for an entire semester. One summer internship at a local magazine.

    Should have done more. I"ve managed to recover in a lot of ways, and am pretty happy doing what I do for now. But after graduation, I had a lot of regrets about my lack of internships. While it was a great time, fulfilling in a lot of ways and I learned a lot, he student paper doesn't matter once it's over.

    Good luck in the internship. It's the right move.
  2. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    And of course, there's the bottom line.

    Eagleboy doing something puts him ahead of some of these poor fools who think their GPA is going to land them in a plum beat at 21.
  3. ServeItUp

    ServeItUp Active Member

    All things considered, I learned more in one year at the school paper than I learned in four years of classes at a fairly well-regarded J-school. If you can't handle this shit at a college paper then there's no way you'll handle it in the real world.
  4. HoopsMcCann

    HoopsMcCann Active Member

    again, there's no single way to do it...

    here's my experience, fwiw

    started at the campus daily at the end of my freshman year -- had about two of the best years ever. loved it. loved putting out a daily newspaper (we were five days a week, monday through friday). loved learning all aspects of the job as only a college daily can provide -- columnist, beat writer, writing in other sections, editor. learned more than i could learn in class. got to observe the real pros in action and learned while on their turf. great stuff all around. we worked together, drank together and had a great time in college. really, wouldn't trade a minute of my time at the campus paper. loved it.

    however, before my senior year, there were politics and personal feelings. the editor of the local daily had been asking me to come over and string for him for a while, and i said sayonara to the campus paper. never made a better decision. learned how to cover a high school game, worked more on deadline, learned how things worked at a 'real' newspaper. more experience.

    really, the more varied experiences you have to draw from, i think the better.

    i'm glad i did both and can't imagine anything better.

    whatever you do, wherever you do it, make sure you observe and learn

    there's never a single right way to do things and everyone has a different experience. enjoy yours -- whichever way it takes you
  5. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    Well said, Hoops. Well said.
  6. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    Double Down, as usual, nails it and makes me go "Doh! I wish I'd said that."

    Like DD and Hoops, I met some of the best friends of my life at the college paper, including the woman who is surfing the web 10 feet away from me as I type. (And she WAS a features editor, but not until after she met me, I swear) Though I wasn't thrilled with my last year, the sum of the experience was the greatest of my life. I will never again work with a group of people so focused on such a pure goal. We weren't driven by money and we didn't have to worry about a budget or whether or not someone would be too cheap to send me to cover the big football game in West Virginia. We weren't trying to climb over each other for a promotion or for the next high-paying gig.

    We just concentrated, often to the detriment of our academics and personal health, on putting out the best goddamn newspaper in the country and kicking the ever-holy shit out of the local daily whom we believed gave our school short shrift and was out to get us at every turn. We were only half right, but the day we held the presses to cover the Thursday morning press conference introducing the new head basketball coach--which meant that we were the first print outlet to report the news--remains one of the proudest of my career.

    We didn't know as much as we thought we knew, we weren't nearly as good as we thought we were and we never took the top spot nationwide (did finish third among weeklies one year). But we succeeded and failed on our own and it created a bond that links us to this day. I'll never have friends like that again.

    We laughed, we drank, we fought, we stayed up for 40 hours at a time, we cried, we drank some more after staying up for 40 straight hours, we fucked. It was awesome. Best times of my life.

    And I still should have bailed in my final year.
  7. patchs

    patchs Active Member

    DD and BYH echo my experience. I was a SE at my college paper for 2 years, we came out twice a week, average of 3 pages per section.
    I had the best time. I covered football, women's hoops and still keep in touch with those coaches, almost 20 years later. I still remember a women's hoop game with a classic ending like it was yesterday.
    The things I learned, layout, editing, writing were important, but being responsible for that section taught me the biggest lesson, more than I could learn in any j class. I learned how to handle writers which still helps me today in my current gig.
    I made some great friends, had some incredible times, we hung out a lot, had some amazing parties and used to hit our college's camp twice a year, which was cool too.
    The college paper experience isn't for everyone but it helped me a lot and it was a time in my life I look back at very fondly.
    I guess if it hadn't been so much fun, I wouldn't be in the biz today.
  8. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    I have some experience working with college students.

    Work at the paper. Get some experience in editing and design. Meanwhile, make friends from the local papers. And be smart about internships. And near the end of your college career - the last two semesters or so - bow out of the school rag and start pursuing more serious opportunities.

    Don't go for the big editor job. That's usually going to go to a news person, a superstar from day one, who has a lot more supposed vision than they do practical understanding. In a four-year stint, at least two editors will completely flame out, often because they're selected not by the staffs but some group almost wholly unaware of what you'll do on a daily basis.

    Get out before you're too exposed to the drama. And stay out of the drama. College newspapers are wonderful, but awful personal and emotional habits are started there. Don't come out of it an alcoholic who eats Wendy's and microwave burritos. Have enough sense to know college is about a lot more than that.
  9. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Only restaurant in town was McDonald's. No burritos ... big bags of pistachio nuts.

    And we liked it that way.
  10. Screwball

    Screwball Active Member


    You say you have great relationships with the beat writers. Do your best to use those relationships as a springboard to professional opportunities. Ask those writers about a prep job at their paper, or about openings at other papers. Maybe they can put it in a good word for you at their paper, or tip you about a good job at another paper.

    That's what you should be doing, no matter how political the college paper might be. That doesn't matter. Rise above it. Look out for yourself and your career. If you have that internship already lined up, so much the better. Once you've gotten that first job, no one will ask you about your college newspaper experience. Good luck.
  11. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I would put the value of a decent internship over experience at a college paper every time. You meet people in the business, get clips that might impress potential employers more and can spread out your networking.

    That doesn't mean you don't work at the college newspaper still. Ideally, the internship would supplement your work at a college paper. If you can't stand working for bosses you don't respect, you better own your own paper.

    On the freelance opportunities, I would be leery. If you are covering a beat at a college paper and can write in-depth stories, learn how beat reporting is done, break news, etc., that will get you further than covering a couple high school games or whatever assigned to you a week.

    Good luck.
  12. Lester Bangs

    Lester Bangs Active Member

    I'm biased here, as I now pay my bills as the adviser to a college newspaper. Love the job, and want my kids to get all the experience they can in every facet of the business, so I encourage them to work for the locals and usually have a hand in getting them jobs that occasionally cost me some of my best writers. Don't care, for the most part, as it really is my job to get them the best experience possible.

    I do have one beef with one local paper that has been poaching kids from my campus. They specifically pull aspiring sportswriters to do Friday-night work and light features. The kids then don't have time for us. I get it and it's cool. Here's my beef -- this specific paper is the worst gamer/feature offender I've ever seen. Their sports section hasn't broken a story in years. There is nothing in the way of sports news. They often ignore news after they get scooped, and instead run nothing but features on Johnny Local's big season for the Bulldogs. The kids don't get any idea what it's like to be a leader in a newsroom and go out into the world thinking that's how real newsrooms work. Further, our student reporters will break a story that paints the university in a negative light, and the SID will seriously tell them, "why are you covering this when the real media doesn't care." Grr.

    The one thing my college paper gave me above all else was the ability to think and react as the person making the calls and taking the heat when they were the wrong ones. To me, that's an essential part of the learning process. Oh yeah, I also made bonds with people that will last a lifetime, but that's all crap for the PR materials. I think everybody should work on their college newspapers, though I understand some experiences are better than others ... just like in the real world.
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