We should have our own reality show

  • The majority of the staff first met each other during the staff camping retreat a few weeks before school started
  • Most of the staff are juniors and sophomores and are interested in returning next year
  • Each section editor and the two designers have their own desk while managing editor Patrick Leiva and I share an office

Arts editor Sarah Gilmore struggles to retrieve her chair back from managing editor Patrick Leiva. The fight for the chair are just normal occurrences in the newsroom. Courtesy photo

The newsroom. It is essential to any media organization whether it be a newspaper or television news station. It’s where the magic happens, so to speak. Stories are gathered, written, edited and reported. Essentially, it’s where the staff of any media outlet spends a large majority of their time and the Mustang Daily staff is no exception.

When I say the staff spends a lot of their time in the newsroom, it is no exaggeration. In addition to the 20 hours a week spent putting the paper together at night, editors (including copy and design) are often found hanging around the newsroom in between classes or anytime they happen to be in the general vicinity of the building. Personally, I am in the newsroom off and on (but mostly on) for about 12 hours a day. I like to joke that the room has its own gravitational pull. Everything is done in the newsroom: eating, sleeping, studying, group project meetings, homework, changing clothes — pretty much if there was a bathroom in the same room, some staff would just move in to save money on rent. But spending so much time together with the same 10 people can get hectic and you learn more about your colleagues than you ever wanted to know. As a result, it’s absolutely imperative that members get along.

Fortunately, there was never a question of whether this year’s staff would work well together. From the very beginning the staff seemed to bond and I credit a lot of that to adviser Brady Teufel and general manager Paul Bittick‘s idea to have a staff retreat before the school year so that everyone could get acquainted with one another. I won’t go into detail the stories and blackmail we now have on each other, but when you convince a staff member to shake the adviser’s tent at 2 a.m., it’s pretty much guaranteed you’re going to get along.

However, arts editor Sarah Gilmore said she was surprised by how quickly everyone gelled.

“The first few days here I didn’t know anyone and I was surprised how right away everyone clicked and by the second day it was fun to come to work,” Gilmore said. “If you have to stay up until ridiculous hours of the night, this is the group of people to do it with.”

And staying at work until 10:30 p.m. when you know you’re going to be up all night doing homework anyway can be hard. Creating a nightly mood that is relaxed and focused is important because the mood of the newsroom sets the tone of the work night. When the staff is stressed or upset by something, you can tell — Gilmore stays quiet for more than five minutes, copy editor Margaret Pack doesn’t say “You guuuuuysss!” when we make a joke at her expense and sports editor Brian De Los Santos doesn’t randomly grunt about things no one understands.

Fortunately, this staff seems to have bonded so well early on in the year that the only time this has really happened was the night we discovered inexcusable mistakes in the paper. De Los Santos, who is in his second year as sports editor, said he enjoys the hilarious atmosphere of the newsroom because it helps bring the stress level down.

“Last year we got stuff done and we were really oriented on getting work done and I think this year everyone has a good understanding of what they’re doing and they do it well and in turn it creates a less stressful environment,” De Los Santos said. “And it’s nice to have a couple minutes of laughter now and then.”

Sometimes, even our weekly designer meetings turn into a laugh fest. Courtesy photo

But sometimes, a couple minutes of laughter turns into a long-tail joke that lasts months. While it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite memory from this year, a few of the staff members agreed that a top contender was election night when a man who was running for either mayor or the city council had me walk him through how to use his e-mail so he could send us a photo. Instead of logging into his Gmail account, he asked me if he needed to go on the internet before repeatedly putting his e-mail address into the URL bar and asking me why it didn’t work. Spending five minutes standing in the middle of the newsroom, trying to explain to this man how to get into his e-mail account while the staff is howling with laughter was extremely difficult. The night ended with design editor Christian Millan joking that we should call the man back and say “Hello, this is the internet calling.”

Although, not all jokes are fit to be said outside the newsroom and half the time, Gilmore said, the volume is at an ear-piercing level. But when you have Leiva and I in our office bickering about who Teufel likes better, Millan recording himself eating a burrito on his laptop and Gilmore and De Los Santos arguing about who kicked whom under their desks that face each other, the high volume is to be expected.

Millan said the newsroom is a fun environment and the atmosphere all comes down to our quirks.

“I think everyone has their own personal antics,” Millan said. “Whether it’s Brian’s outbursts or Gilmore’s ability — or inability — to stop talking or (assistant news editor) Erin’s almost-panic attacks and Kaytlyn has the uncanny ability to stay calm even when everything is going wrong. It goes on and on.”

So yes, the newsroom is crazy (Gilmore related it to a cross between a zoo and a daycare) and yes, our news editor (who also happens to be the youngest member in the newsroom at night) just might be the most mature person in at night, but I wouldn’t change it. As the editor-in-chief, what matters most to me is that the staff learns, works hard and enjoys what they do every night because if they didn’t enjoy it, we couldn’t create a paper that we’re proud of. A person’s want to do something shines through in their work and I can only hope that our excitement each night to put out a paper worthy of Cal Poly is evident in the final product.

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