Putting the ‘student’ back in ‘student editor’

  • Mustang Daily editors work a minimum of 20 hours a week
  • All Mustang Daily editors are full-time students taking 12 units or more
  • In addition to nightly work, editors also attend weekly staff meetings and the J352 Mustang Daily writing class

The Mustang Daily newsroom is located in the Graphic Arts building in room 226. Photo by Leticia Rodriguez

The thing about working for the Mustang Daily is that it is a job. The entire paper is written, edited, designed and printed by students who are paid to work four nights a week from 5 to 10 p.m. But producing a daily, award-winning paper is really a full-time job and even when the nightly editorial staff isn’t in the newsroom, they are working.

But when it comes to working for the Mustang Daily, the job doesn’t entail just grinding out the paper Sunday through Wednesday night. The nightly editorial staff encompasses four section editors, two designers, two copy editors, the managing editor and myself. Every member of the editorial staff is required to attend a weekly staff meeting every Sunday at 5 p.m. There are two sets of copy editors so each set works every other night while the two designers work every night as well as outside the newsroom to complete needed graphics for the week’s paper. Meanwhile, the four section editors attend the J352 Mustang Daily writing class Monday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. to go over story ideas with the reporters and the adviser, edit stories for their sections throughout the week as they come in from reporters and cover stories for their respective sections when the need arises.

As a result of the demands of the job (both at night and outside of the newsroom), remembering that the staff is actually made up of students is hard for even the editors themselves. Mustang Daily general manager Paul Bittick said he tries to put the students’ academics first and encourages students to stay away from all things related to work when not in the newsroom so as to get homework and projects completed. But it’s often easier said than done. Sports editor Brian De Los Santos said the only time he feels like he has time to do homework is on the weekends, but even then it’s not until after 11 p.m.when a game has been covered and the story has been written.

“We’re not students, we’re editors,” De Los Santos said. “I can’t remember the last time I sat back and did a full night of studying. It’s just hard. Especially covering sports. The one time you have to do homework, you’re out on weekends covering games.”

When it comes down to it, some editors joke that they have given up doing homework all together. News editor Kaytlyn Leslie said that when she does do homework, it’s not until after she gets out of the newsroom at 10 p.m.

“It’s essays until three in the morning and then hoping I get up in time for class,” Leslie said.

But not all have given up. The process of putting the newspaper together at night is a little confusing to explain if a person has never been in the newsroom before. It all starts with the section editors. After they are e-mailed the stories by the reporter, the section editor puts the story in WordPress for it to be read over twice by copy editors and myself. While the stories are being read, the section editors are designing their pages so they can get a general idea of how their pages will look. After the stories have been read, they reimport them into the pages and print so they can be edited by the copy editors, managing editor Patrick Leiva and myself. While we edit the pages, the section editors have downtime and that is when most attempt to do homework.

Sports editor Brian De Los Santos and arts editor Sarah Gilmore both said it's hard to be an editor and a full-time student. "We're not students, we're editors," De Los Santos said. Photo by Leticia Rodriguez

However, arts editor Sarah Gilmore said doing homework in the newsroom isn’t always feasible because of the many different conversations and distractions occurring at night. She said she tries to plan her day around work so that she can utilize the time she is away from the newsroom to the best of her ability. Even so, when it comes to group projects, she often finds it’s harder to contribute as much as she would like.

“It’s really hard to be a part of a group because when everyone gets out of class to meet, you have to go to work so you feel like you can’t contribute,” Gilmore said.

And when it comes to special sections, it’s even harder to focus on classes.

“Special editions always seem to come up during finals and midterms so we have to be here extra time to put out more pages and we have to study extra for classes,” Gilmore said.

Not all have as much of a hard time as the section editors. Designer Melissa Wong said when it comes to getting homework done in the newsroom, the key is to save the assignments that don’t require as much concentration for work. Wong is a graphic design junior and in addition to the different graphics she does for the paper, she is often working on design assignments for class. Wong said that she is used to having her nights free and finds it takes longer to do homework.

“It’s hard in the sense that I don’t have as much time,” Wong said. “Even though I do my homework here, if it takes me one hour to read (at home), it takes me two hours (in the newsroom).”

The extra time to do a small reading assignment and the late nights are tough to get used to. The responsibilities that come with working for the paper extend beyond putting out a quality edition four times a week and delve into learning how to be responsible for our other obligations. Working for the paper is a choice (although not everything we do for the paper is necessarily our choice) and it’s a choice we all made with an idea of the struggles and strain it could have the potential to put on our school work.

It’s a lot of hard work — working so much on the paper and keeping up grades so as to prevent the wrath from angry parents — but we love our job. At the end of the day, all we can do is give both jobs 100 percent of ourselves and hope others understand that we’re giving it our all.

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