If you still haven’t figured it out yet, the product you are holding in your hands — The Summer Times — comes out on Thursday every week. Each issue is filled with news around campus, our thoughts on what’s happening across the globe, and the journalism students’ and teacher’s sweat and laughter.
This piece is going to take you behind the scenes, and show you the exhausting but exciting production process.
The news cycle starts Thursday and ends on Wednesday when the paper goes to print, which is actually a rather short amount of time considering the work that needs to be done.
Every Thursday, we brainstorm for the next issue. What we do is we sketch out a form on the blackboard containing a slug (a brief title of the piece), name of the reporter, length of the story in words, and a deadline. We fill in the slugs with the ideas we come up with as a group, then assign them to different students.
While being struck by the idea of a perfect article is more than satisfying, you inevitably get a feeling of frustration when Mr. Blumenthal, the faculty advisor and journalism teacher, erases everything from last week. According to Mr. Blumenthal, it gets harder, but it also gets easier. It gets easier because we’re getting better at writing articles; it gets harder because there are fewer fresh ideas on the table.
After each student is clear about his assignment, we start interviewing people, draft our pieces, and stay up late trying to meet the deadline. It’s crucial for us to stick to our deadlines because all of the pieces still need editing before going into print.
This is where Mr. Blumenthal and the layout editors, Alec Greaney and Michaela Streep (last week it was Carolyn Freeman instead), come in. The deadlines are arranged at different times so that the editors don’t get all the stories in at once — instead they get a nice flow. The editors’ job is to correct grammar mistakes, improve the clarity of the writing, and finally, to put the articles into the dummy. The dummy is a basic layout of the paper, on the computer. In other words, it shows where everything is supposed to be in the final paper.
Wednesday night is editing night. All students must go the Exonian Layout office on the second floor of the Academy Center to make a final check of their pieces. The fewer the corrections, the more successful the paper is. The checking process is a way to avoid corrections in the next issue.
Wednesday night is often a late night for the editors. After all 22 students from both Journalism A and B formats finish checking their pieces, the editors re-read all the stories, write headlines and finish rearranging the dummy. Finally it is sent electronically to the printer in North Andover, Massachusetts, about 40 minutes’ drive away, where the paper rolls out of the presses in the early hours of Thursday and is put on a truck for delivery here.
Next morning, the paper comes out. We distribute it to various places as fast as possible for everyone in Exeter to get an early read. After that, it’s that entire cycle all over again. However, it never seems to get boring. How can having your own authentic voice in the papers ever get boring?