Mar 032011
 
Authors: Madeline Novey

I’ve seen it happen before. Students will walk into Clark-A before a 9 a.m., glance at the bins containing the Collegian and take a moment to decide whether they should grab a copy.

In that moment, I can’t know what has motivated them to grab a paper or walk on. But every night I can go to sleep knowing my staff has worked specifically to catch their eye and extend their arm.

Sunday through Thursday the Collegian Editorial Board –– made up of nine editors from News, Sports, Entertainment, Design, Photo and Opinion –– gets together for an evening budget meeting.

No, this doesn’t mean we crunch numbers to break even or boost our monthly profits, but rather, this is the time during when we determine the story that will take center stage on the front page, what photos will run with a piece and on what issue we will write the daily Our View –– the page-four editorial composed by the Editorial Board.

The paper’s most prominent story of the day is called the “main” package. What will run main each day is decided, for the most part, in our Sunday planning meetings and is selected for several reasons: the story’s importance –– its news or entertainment value ––, its opportunity for colorful, meaningful art (photography) and whether the staff can create coordinating content like graphs, interesting facts and maps.

Typically, we run three stories on front –– the average is three to four for most papers nationwide. This is a design decision that helps keep front pages simple and easily navigated. It is also an editorial decision that allows a newspaper to create a clear hierarchy of content based on what stories are decided to be most important for the community to consume.

From there on out, stories are placed “inside” or in specific locations, if they fall into the “standing element” category. A weekly movie review or column –– something that runs on the same day within a specified time frame –– would qualify.

And depending on space in the paper –– most days we have eight to 10 pages –– some content is published online-only at Collegian.com. These stories are not unimportant but fall lower on the hierarchy of newsworthiness –– the idea that a story is important to or impacting our readers.
Headlines are first written by the reporter on the story and reviewed by his or her direct editor for accuracy and reader-appeal. Ultimately, though, available design space dictates at what size and how many words comprise a headline.

More than once, the Collegian has run an inaccurate or awkward headline with a story. Never is this intentional but almost always a result of misperception or misunderstanding of a piece. Sometimes it’s human error as a result of tapping the midnight oil every day for years.
Sometimes story packages are interpreted differently than intended, as was the case with Thursday’s main Collegian story.

The corresponding headline read “Lacking leadership: Diversity leaders resign” for a story that reported four of the six members of student government’s Diversity and Outreach Department have resigned since the start of the semester.

With the story ran a photo of a student working in the office with Foula Dimopoulos, the director of CSU’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center, one of the many university diversity offices affected by the student diversity representatives’ resignations.
As a result, Foula was asked throughout Thursday if she had resigned from her post.

In retrospect, the paper could have communicated more clearly in the photo’s cutline the connection between the office and the resignations. If this had happened, the main package –– story, headlines and photo –– would be 100 percent accurate, fair and newsworthy.

Despite our efforts to craft an established news package, one component of the story was able to change reader perception and thus, the story itself.

In the end, it all comes down to the main story and, largely, the words printed in 65-point font across the top of our paper. It is these two or three words that determine whether someone bends down to pick up the paper each day and how the news is perceived.

And so, rather than sleep, I am kept up at night.
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Editor in Chief Madeline Novey is a senior journalism major and can be reached at letters@collegian.com._

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