Brooke Schmidt: You’re listening to 91.3 WTSR at The College of New Jersey. I’m here with Sydney Shaw from The Signal. Sydney, what position do you hold?
Sydney Shaw: I am one of The Signal’s two news editors.
Brooke: And what exactly does that entail, being a news editor?
Sydney: Well, news editors are tasked with making the front page of the paper. We decide which stories get features primarily, we make the layout of the front page and we assign news stories around campus to our writers. And the news section also contains three beats: we have student government, student finance board and cop shop.
Brooke: Ok, and what’s the criteria for what goes on the front page?
Sydney: Well, if something is especially hard-hitting, we work together to figure out what is most important to go on the top of the fold, rather than the bottom of the fold, or even on page two or three. So, say there was a fall concert. Even if that’s not a news story, we would jump that from news to arts & entertainment, for example. We would put that on the front because we think that’s what students want to see.
Brooke: What is it like working with another person, ’cause you said there are two news editors, so how do you do that?
Sydney: Yeah, I mean, my co-news editor, she’s awesome. Her name is Ellie and we split the work every week. So one week, she’ll do the front page and page three, and I will do page two and four. And we alternate like that, so no one is in charge of the front page every week. We put it on and off, and we work really well together.
Brooke: Do you get many people soliciting you for coverage of their events, and stuff like that, that you deem newsworthy?
Sydney: Yeah, we get a crazy amount of emails all the time. Our editor-in-chief always forwards us emails that the Signal email account gets — people requesting coverage for events, people thanking us for covering events — so we’re always in constant correspondence with lots of people.
Brooke: And of the, you know, however-many emails that you get in, how many of those are you actually able to cover?
Sydney: I think we actually cover most of them, because most of them aren’t on the same night, or same day, or whenever the event is. We have so many editors working for us and we have so many writers under us that most of the events that people request that we cover are featured in the paper.
Brooke: And how does that work? You mentioned that you have a lot of writers under you — how does it work working with them? Like, what is your responsibility as their editor?
Sydney: Well, our writers… we rely on our writers for everything. If they want a story, they come into our office on Sunday nights — we have storyboarding — and they tell us what section they want to write for, they can see what stories we have available, or they can pitch an idea to us if they’d like. So we work on 48-hour deadlines at The Signal. So, say their event is on a Wednesday afternoon, we’d like that story to be emailed to us by Friday afternoon. And from that point, we edit the stories in a Google doc. First — say it was a news story — I’ll edit it, then my co-editor Ellie will edit it, and then we’ll send it up the chain. Then, our managing editor will take a look at it and make edits, and then it goes all the way up to our editor-in-chief. So from that point, we go to production. That’s on Monday nights, and it usually lasts pretty late into the night. We’ve been getting out a lot earlier this year than past years. But our editor-in-chief has the final say on the Google doc online, and then we place it into an Adobe InDesign page. And that’s where we put all the text and the photos and actually make the layout of the paper and produce it. So that part’s a lot of fun: making it look pretty, picking the nice pictures. And then from there, it’s mostly just technical edits, like a comma that’s out of place or a caption that needs to be moved down a couple clicks. So it’s a pretty solid process.
Brooke: Is it hard having that much control? You know, like being in charge of so many people and what the paper eventually looks like?
Sydney: It is stressful sometimes, especially if, sometimes we have new writers who don’t know certain style tips and they don’t have as much experience. But we love getting new writers. We love working with them. And it is a lot of fun to lay out the page, and everyone’s so helpful. We have a really great staff this semester and everyone has really great input. Everyone works together really well, so that’s definitely a bonus.
Brooke: What types of tips would you give to, you know, the aspiring writers who would like to work for The Signal?
Sydney: I’d say mostly just get involved, because I know I made that mistake my freshman year. I was nervous to go down to the office, so I didn’t until maybe November, and then once I did, everyone was so nice and I was writing every week for them. And then from that point on, if we know who you are and you’re writing every week, maybe we’ll want you to be our assistant. Like, you could be the features assistant or the arts & entertainment assistant. And then when elections come around at the end of the semester, we know your face, and whoever you were assisting can vouch for you in elections. So if you want to become an editor and that’s your ultimate goal, or even if you just want to become a reliable staff writer, come to our office. We’re in Forcina 204 this year because the Student Center is being demolished. But yeah, it’s definitely important to be involved and just come out, because even if you’re not , or you don’t think you’re that great of a writer, you can come down and take a story and we’ll help you through it. And we have faith in you.
Brooke: So what exactly does an assistant do, like to assist an editor?
Sydney: So, the main job of an assistant is say, you put everything — or the editor puts everything — into the InDesign file. All the text and photos. Then we’ll print that out in a full-size, 11.5 by whatever length it is, the tabloid-size paper, so our editor-in-chief and managing editor will look over that and they’ll circle anything that looks out of place, they’ll tell you what photo looks blurry, and then they’ll give you that paper back so you can make those edits on the actual InDesign page on the computer. So assistants, we would give the paper to them and their job is to do the copy editing. They would just basically make sure that the page looks like the edits on the paper.
Brooke: So you also mentioned earlier that you have moved to Forcina. What were the issues? You know, you were in the basement of the Student Center before. What were the issues of moving all the way there?
Sydney: Yeah, we were in the basement. So, we definitely had a lot of stuff down there. We had a lot of archived issues of the paper going back a really, really long time in big file cabinets, we had a couch, we had so many computers that had to get moved over, so it was definitely a process getting all of that moved all the way across campus. But the College has been helping us a lot. They got us a new couch, they’re getting us new cubbies because we left ours in the office and they got demolished. But, you know, besides that, it’s been pretty smooth and our new office is great. We actually have windows now. We’re not trapped in the basement.
Brooke: You can see things, so that’s nice!
Sydney: Yes, we can! We actually have a view of one of the lakes on the campus.
Brooke: So it’s not all that bad.
Sydney: No. It’s actually… it’s nicer. It’s a little bit smaller, but it’s cleaner and a nicer view.
Brooke: Are you able to do, you know, everything that you could do beforehand in the smaller space?
Sydney: Yes, definitely. And we actually have a new printer this year, too. We had a lot of problems with our old printer, who we fondly named Karen. She did not like us, or to cooperate with us, so we often had to go up two flights of stairs to the second floor of the Student Center to print, and then run it back downstairs so our managing editor could edit those pages, and that was so stressful. So now we have a beautiful, big printer and we don’t have to go anywhere, so that’s something we’re especially excited about.
Brooke: So it’s nice then, I guess, that you guys were able to move. At least, it seems like it’s working out better for you guys.
Sydney: Yeah, definitely better than expected. I think a lot of us were nervous to make the move, but everything has run really smoothly. We’re approaching our fourth issue now and everything’s been really great. We have a lot of great content and everyone is working really well together, so it’s exciting.
Brooke: So you mentioned that you do a lot of the editing of the paper and the designing of the paper on that Monday. Can you describe for me like, what a typical Monday is for you?
Sydney: A typical Monday… um, so a lot of our editors have class, which is ok, but a lot of them try to schedule their Monday so that they have mostly free time to dedicate to The Signal.
Brooke: Is that the entire day?
Sydney: Well, it can be. What we’ve done lately, or twice so far, is we’ve had Monday with no class, because we had an issue the first week of class, before I think classes started on a Tuesday. So that whole Monday, we had the whole day to work on the paper. And then two days ago, we had Labor Day. So we actually did meet on Labor Day and we did produce the paper. So classes didn’t get in the way then, but typically, they do. So what I will do is… I have a class at 12:30. So maybe I’d go in at 10 and start working on my pages, then go to class, then get lunch, then go back to the office and work then. And it usually has been going pretty quickly. We’ve getting out, tops, maybe 10, 11 at night? It used to, years ago, in past staffs, they would be there until maybe 3 or 4 in the morning on a good night. And that’s something we really tried hard as a staff this year not to do. And even last year. We’ve basically been getting out earlier and earlier, and finishing the paper earlier than past years. And I think that the editing first on Google Drive is helping with that, because the editor-in-chief and the managing editor have already seen the pages. So they can read the articles and find the mistakes there instead of having to do all the edits on paper after it’s been laid out. So I think that definitely helps speed things along.
Brooke: Yeah, it’s probably a lot better that you’re not getting out at three o’clock in the morning, especially ’cause classes are still a thing that exist the next day.
Sydney: Yes, it’s really tough. I myself scheduled my Tuesday classes from 4 and onward. I don’t have anything Tuesday morning. I know a lot of the other editors also do that. But I had a 9:30 class on a Tuesday last year. So that was tough, waking up for that. But it really isn’t as bad as you’d think, because it is so much fun working on the paper, even when you stay up late. And we get pizza every week, so that’s fun. We get pasta and salad and we have family dinners. Like, it really is just such a great environment working there.
Brooke: That sounds awesome. So when, if someone were interested in being part of The Signal, when could they come and meet with you guys?
Sydney: Well any Sunday night around 5:30-6, they can come to storyboarding. Even if you don’t want to write a story, you can come see what stories are available, get a feel of the layout of the paper, talk to the editors and just hang out. And even on a Monday night, from probably 4 o’clock onward, most of us will be in the office. That’s Forcina Hall 204. So, anybody can come upstairs and check us out and see what’s going on and just talk to us. We love new writers, we really want a lot of people to get involved this year. Especially journalism majors, because if you’re a freshman, it’s a requirement to write for The Signal your first semester. And even if you’re not a freshman, you need clips to get internships and to have on job resumes, so writing for The Signal is really important, especially if you’re a journalism major. But we do have a lot of non-journalism majors. We have a lot of history majors, communication writers, even some science majors have been writing for us lately, which is exciting to see.
Brooke: That’s awesome. Thank you so much for sitting down with us. Once again, this is Sydney from The Signal, and you’re listening to 91.3 FM WTSR at The College of New Jersey. This is “Behind the Scenes,” and always remember to open your mind.