Here at the Collegian we strive daily to bring you a comprehensive, well-written look at events, occurrences and issues impacting CSU and the surrounding world. We do this with an all-student staff of editors, reporters, photographers, columnists, graphic designers, page designers, copy editors. More than 50 people in all contribute to the assembling of this newspaper each week.
The Collegian’s mission is presented best in a statement that appears on the Opinion Page most days: “The Rocky Mountain Collegian’s purpose is threefold: serve as a news source, create a platform for discourse and provide skill development for staff. The Collegian strive to cover and explain the relevance of issues that impact the Colorado State community, primarily students, by providing a broad scope of perspectives.”
In many ways we have lived up to this mission this semester, but in many ways we have failed.
As many of you have pointed out in letters to the editor, we have made more than our fair share of mistakes this semester. Errors in spelling, inaccurate headlines, misplaced captions that don’t go with the photo they are under, stories that are jumped to the wrong page; the list, unfortunately, goes on and on. In addition, we have made many factual errors over the semester, although we have done our best to run corrections for those (corrections always appear on page two of the paper). These mistakes have been embarrassing, and quite simply should never have happened.
I have never been one to make excuses, but instead wanted to take this opportunity apologize and to educate you, our readers, on how we are trying to keep errors from popping up in the future.
A story that is turned into the paper, although researched and written by the reporter listed in the byline, passes through many hands before it makes it into yours the following day. Each staff-written story is read by at least two editors (usually the assigning editor and a managing editor). The names of these people appear in an edited-by-line at the end of each story.
Every night at around 5:30 p.m., the managing editors and I meet to decide where the stories will appear in the next day’s paper. How a story is played depends on a variety of factors, including the other news of the day, available photos and graphics and a subjective view of each story’s “newsworthiness.” In addition, I have made it a goal to get a staff-written story on top of the front page each day.
After this process concludes, the story is passed onto the page designer to be physically placed on the page using the layout program Quark. The names of the page designers appear at the top of each page they design every day. It is at this stage that headlines are usually written, although the original writer and editors are expected to offer a few headline suggestions.
Finally, a copy editor, whose job is to read every word on the page in order to catch additional mistakes, looks over the story one last time. The names of the copy editors who worked each night appear on page two every day. After that the page is approved by the Night Managing Editor and sent electronically to the printer.
We are in now striving to improve this process to ensure that fewer errors find their way to the printer. We are requiring reporters to double check spellings of names and other factual information. We are requiring editors on all levels to use spell check, and to verify questionable information with the reporter. We are having page designers and copy editors use check sheets to ensure that they are looking at all aspects of the page, including those elements that are easy to overlook (page numbers, dates, etc.). These may seem like obvious solutions, and indeed they are, but we are now backing these requirements up with punitive measures for the staff.
Meanwhile, we are striving to improve communication between various levels of the staff at the newspaper and continually training our reporters and editors to ensure that fewer mistakes make it into print. The Collegian will always be a training ground for people interested in the field of journalism, and it is clear that we will never be perfect. But we will do our best to improve. We owe it to you, our readers.
-Ben Koerselman is editor in chief of the Collegian. He welcomes your comments and criticisms. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.