Behind the Print

It’s 1:30 a.m. on a Tuesday evening…umm…no it’s actually Wednesday morning. The other Western Carolinian staff members and myself are laboriously working to complete the layout so we can take it to press. I sometimes lose track of what day it is, because my days are not like the average person’s.

My days are usually 18-19 hours long, leaving 5 to 6 hours for sleep. I’m not complaining in the least bit. This is my life. This is how I choose to live as a 5th year college student (I like to say that the 5 years is because I have a double major). My days consist of attending class and completing assignments, attending to life’s responsibilities, living a little, and most of all, tracking down people who hold information I need. This information is not only useful to me, but the community, as well.

Every Tuesday I have a burning desire to explain to people all that is involved in putting a college newspaper together, mainly to iron out any misperceptions.

When I talk with friends and fellow students about our days, classes and such, they ask why I have to spend a good bit of my time attempting to reach people to attain information.

First off, I explain it’s not something I have to do, but that it’s something I choose to do. One of my majors is English/Journalism, so I chose to begin my career by writing for our university newspaper-the Western Carolinian, WCU’s INDEPENDENT VOICE-to gain first-hand experience. It’s not required for me to graduate. I’m just willing to put forth a significant amount of effort to fulfill what I believe is my responsibility as a journalist: provide useful information and shed light on important, perhaps unknown, truths.

There are many different opinions of journalists and the products we produce. Many appreciate the effort we put forth and enjoy our work. Others criticize us, such as those who believe that we’re too blunt or straightforward in presenting the news. Or, that we don’t take peoples’ feelings and image into consideration.

Well, news is like that a lot of times. We often have to step on some feet to get the complete truth. The truth hurts sometimes. Headlines are breathtaking and sometimes article content is close to unbelievable. However, it’s not our fault. We present news that is produced by members of the public, a lot of whom will read a story about a crime versus one about student affairs.

And then there are those people who believe that the Western Carolinian is simply a STUDENT ACTIVITY. Well, the long days, fighting to get the truth, welcoming and accepting people’s criticism should clear up that false perception.

My idea of a student activity is the Anime Club, whose purpose is to watch Japanimation. It’s not that doing so is not important and beneficial to a student’s intellect. But, the students can participate when they choose and are not responsible for communicating what they have learned or gained to the general public.

I like to think of my job as News Editor as a student career. Once I agree by contract to investigate community wide issues, seek answers to questions, and submit them for print, I should not discontinue my services until my contract is up. The pay, not being on call, and covering a smaller area is part of what distinguishes student journalism from journalism in the “real world.”

The most difficult false belief to combat regarding college journalism is that it should require little, if any, funding. Let’s see, there is the cost of printing, the paper, the office space to work in, the office supplies, the vehicle needed to take the paper to press, and paying the writers, editors, photographers, advertising representatives, and layout designer. All of these jobs are essential to producing a credible paper. Just to give an idea, the printing alone for a single issue this year comes to $592 dollars.

For those people who look down on the Western Carolinian or do not take it seriously, how would you be aware of everything that is going on in the community if we did not produce a newspaper? Would you hunt down information you wanted or needed, and attempt to unravel perplexing issues that affect both you and other community members? If so, come and join the Western Carolinian staff. We’re always looking for developing minds. If not, appreciate that you have a credible resource for community related information, which you can turn to any time.