In August, The Western Carolinian newspaper created the new position of Managing Editor to assist with several responsibilities in order to groom him or her to be the next Editor-in-Chief.
In May, News Editor Tyler Auffhammer was appointed to the position of Managing Editor and began working during the last week of August. Due to schedule conflicts and a desire to focus on his schoolwork, Auffhammer stepped down on Sept. 23.
“It was a huge shock,” said Editor-in-Chief Lex Menz. “I didn’t see it coming, but I understand why he stepped down. Schoolwork always has to come first. Still, we’re all sad to see him go. He’s been a part of the newspaper for so long, and he brought so much dedication and new ideas to the table. He’ll be missed. Whatever he decides to do next, I know he’ll work as hard at it as he did the paper.”
With her graduation quickly approaching, Menz needed to find a replacement in a hurry before leaving Western Carolina University after the December commencement ceremony.
“It was a hectic few days, I can tell you that,” said Menz. “Suddenly, I didn’t have a replacement anymore, and at the time, there were only 12 weeks left to go to train someone. I began looking at the other staff members instead of outside students.”
Staff writer Laura Odom was promoted and stepped up as Managing Editor on Sept. 25.
Odom began as a contributing writer under the leadership of former Editor-in-Chief Justin Caudell. She was hired as a staff writer in 2012, writing mostly arts and entertainment and feature pieces. Some of her work includes “Citizen Spotlight: Mayor Maurice Moody,” “Alumni Spotlight: Joshua James” and “The 4-1-1 for freshmen.” Odom studies secondary English education and plans to graduate in 2015.
Odom is excited about becoming Managing Editor and looks forward to learning how to run a college newspaper.
“As Managing Editor, I am hoping to hone my editing and leadership skills while gaining as much experience to better prepare myself for the Editor-in-Chief position,” said Odom. “Lex and the staff are really amazing and talented people. I am looking forward to working with them in this new role.”
Other members of the staff were just as enthused about Odom stepping into the position.
“I was so glad when I found out that Laura had the job,” said staff writer Katie Marshall. “She loves the paper and is one of the nicest, most capable people I know.”
Menz said, “There were a lot of factors that make Laura the perfect choice. She’s extremely dedicated to the paper, she gets along well with the other staff members, and she understands what makes a strong article. In my time here, I’ve seen her grow as a person and as a journalist.
“Also, Laura will provide stability to The Western Carolinian,” continued Menz. “Since March 2012 when Justin Caudell left, there have been a lot of positions experiencing a bit of musical chairs. First, there were co-editors for a year, several designers for only a few months at a time as well as losing a handful of staff writers. It began to take its toll on the employees who stayed and the newspaper as a whole. When I leave in December, Laura will still be here for over a year.”
Menz explained that since Odom does not graduate until May 2015, she will have plenty of time to train someone to take over so that transitions from one Editor-in-Chief to another will be a smooth and simple process.
“Taking over, even with a Co-Editor, was anything but easy,” said Menz. “I had a lot to learn, and I had to learn it fast. The phrase ‘pushed into the deep end’ has never been more accurately defined. I don’t want that for Laura, and I don’t want that for anyone else who takes over the newspaper. Just because I’m graduating doesn’t mean I stop caring for the paper. There needs to be a balanced process to bringing in the next Editor-in-Chief without all the drama I experienced.”
Odom, too, wants to continue strengthening the newspaper and moving it forward.
“I feel the largest challenge I will face will be filling Lex’s shoes. I’ve seen her do a lot of great work, and I can only hope to do as well as she has.”
According to Menz, Odom has shown wonderful potential and is rapidly picking up everything she has been taught so far.
“She’s an education major, and when she’s in front of the classroom, she absolutely shines,” said Menz. “We presented to Dr. Brent Kinser’s Intro to the English Major class about working at the newspaper, and Laura just thrived. When she eventually stands in front of the staff for assignment meetings, she’s going to be just fine. She’s learning so quickly, which is what you need in this job. You have to soak everything in like a sponge, then you have to immediately process it and spit it back out in a coherent manner. Otherwise, nothing would get done.”
Odom’s time at The Western Carolinian has been full of networking, meeting deadlines, learning and teaching others. Menz made it clear that she has every confidence in her new replacement. Odom, too, feels comfortable in the role and looks forward to the next big step in January as Editor-in-Chief.
“There will always be mistakes along the way,” stated Menz, “but she’ll succeed. I have no doubt. I don’t have to worry about the future of the paper anymore. It’s been taken care of.”