Inside Scoop - Week 0 (and corrections)

Inside Scoop is a weekly column about the operation of the Spartan Daily, San Jose State's student newspaper.

We put out three newspapers this week: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

This week the new editorial staff (led by me) took over production of the paper, with assistance from the outgoing editors, and on Thursday, we were supposed to do it all by ourselves (mostly).

On Monday night we finished at 1:00am exactly, Tuesday night was around 12:45am, and Wednesday night around 1:30am. The last one isn't a regression, since we had 2 extra pages, plus a doubletruck (a two-page spread) and a late story waiting on the San Jose Sharks game to end.

That said, we should be aiming to get out before or around midnight, regardless of the number of pages and content.

Tuesday

The leading story on Tuesday was about how the new recreation center on campus prohibits photography (including selfies), and most students don't know about that. We only found out about it when trying to take photos for another story (see: Wednesday) and weren't allowed to. At around 5pm Monday afternoon we switched out the main story on the front page in favor of this one that was yet to be written. This definitely didn't help with our production time, but in my opinion, made for a better paper.

We spent too much time figuring out which stories had been edited, and by whom. We didn't yet have the communication channels set up and expectations clear, causing a lot of confusion and unnecessary micromanagement. I think we rectified most of this for the next issue.

As a chaos monkey test, in the template pages we were given, the date was spelled "Tuessday" to see if any of us would run spell check or catch it by eye. We failed. Thankfully the printer caught it when reviewing the pages to make sure they were transmitted OK, and we were able to fix it before print.

The biggest issue in this paper was that none of the photos taken in it were by Spartan Daily photographers. While there's no technical problem per se, it still makes me feel bad.

Wednesday

Things really started clicking on Tuesday afternoon. Most of our stories went through edits pretty early, and pages were laid out quickly...except for news. We didn't get the hand scanner photos until late in the afternoon, leading to uncertainty about which stories we'd be running, and where on the page they'd be going. We also got a great campus image that had us push the story that was supposed to go in that space to the next day.

Thanks to El Espartano Noticias, the Spanish language journalism club, page 3 is entirely in Spanish, and features stories aimed at Spanish-speaking students. This is our second Spanish page this semester, and I'm hopefully that we can increase the frequency next semester.

Thursday

I'm pretty proud of this paper. We pulled off a pretty decent doubletruck spotlighting Graduation as our final scheduled issue. It's not perfect, but I think it gives us a good idea of the amount of work that goes into doing these kinds of spotlight packages. With proper planning, I am confident we can do them once a week.

Due to some last minute changes, we ended up running two medical media literacy stories that should've been packaged together since the basic premise of both is the same (debunked rumors about an outbreak of a disease).

The back page with the Sharks Game 7 win turned out really nice since we were able to have one reporter focus on writing the story and another shooting photos.

On corrections

One thing I'm doing very differently than predecessors is running more corrections. I've taken a more liberal stance when it comes to printing corrections, that as long as it is factually wrong, we'll correct it. We already have two corrections lined up for the first print issue next semester.

Some people view corrections as something that looks bad, since we messed up. I think running corrections underscores our commitment to getting the facts right, to the point where we're happy to admit that we're wrong so we can put out the correct information. In my view, corrections make a paper look good.


Inside Scoop - Training with 20 pages

Inside Scoop is a weekly column about the operation of the Spartan Daily, San Jose State's student newspaper.

This past week myself and the fall 2019 editorial board shadowed the current editors, getting a feel for what our jobs will be like. This mostly went according to plan, with nearly all of the new editors getting hands on experience with pitching stories, editing content, and laying out pages.

This all culminated with a 20-page special edition about "Home" (25MB pdf). Tuesday and Wednesday evenings were pretty crazy, by the end I had edited every page except two, and one of those I skipped because it only had stories I had written on it.

20 pages was pretty ambitious, and I wonder whether we would have put out a better product with only 16 pages, cutting some stories. In any case, the volume of editing required was pretty beneficial for me.

This coming week we're going to be taking over production of the newspaper. People keep asking me whether I'm excited or overwhelmed, and the answer is simply neither. It just feels like the next thing to do. Also I'm pretty tired.

In other news, The New York Times published the winning essay for the Modern Love college essay contest. It's amazing, and I teared up while reading it.

I plan on keeping my own entry to myself for now, though I'm glad I wrote and submitted it. Thanks to my friends who proofread and gave me advice on it beforehand.

Three Spartan Daily issues left - nearly ready to finish out the semester!


Inside Scoop: Building a team

Inside Scoop is a weekly column about the operation of the Spartan Daily, San Jose State's student newspaper.

It's been about a week and a half since I was announced as the executive editor for next semester's Spartan Daily. The main task I've had since then is building up our staff by recruiting and selecting editors.

First was picking a managing editor, who is basically the second in command. She's awesome.

After that, I was looking for editors for each section (news, arts & entertainment, opinion, and sports), copy editors, and other misc. areas like online, photo, and graphics.

Each prospective candidate had to submit a brief platform, which explained their experience, why they'd wanted that position, and any plans they might have had. After turning that in, I had a questionnaire for them to fill out and turn in.

Both of those were really most of what I was looking for - the platform allowed candidates tell me what they wanted to, and the questionnaire told me what what I wanted to know. We (the managing editor and I) also did interviews of each candidate, mostly as a double check of the platform and questionnaire.

Some of the questions on the questionnaire were basic like a self-evaluation of their editing ability, or confirming that they could make the late night time commitment. Others asked about how they would handle specific situations that I saw occur during this semester (e.g. people not wanting to take a very important story).

One of the most important questions was: "Which of the 7 values of newsworthiness (impact, timeliness, prominence, proximity, bizarreness, conflict, currency) do you think is the most important?"

Back at De Anza College, we learned about news judgement, and seven different values of newsworthiness when deciding which stories are more important. News judgement is kind of an intrinsic value that many people, including myself, struggle with. While skills like proper AP style can be taught in a short time, good news judgement is much harder in my opinion.

The most popular response was impact, then timeliness. The question was kind of a trick question, since the answer I was looking for that they're all just as important - something my first journalism professor at De Anza instilled in us. The hard part about news judgement is figuring out how to balance those values when different stories tick different boxes.

I was pleased to see one person give that answer - and even more pleased that that individual is one of our new news editors :-)

As a joke, I also added "What Taylor Swift song best describes you?" as a question. There was probably some value in having it there, just to make sure the candidates were compatible with my sense of humor. Only two out of the twelve or so applicants picked old Taylor (pre-Red) songs. It's a generational shift I suppose.

Ultimately I was looking to build a cohesive team that did not require constant oversight - and with a little drama, I think I've gotten that. The process was a bit more rushed than I would have liked, but we were competing with the student magazine for recruiting.

This coming week is going to be shadowing the current editors and learning what exactly we have to do, and the week after that we'll take over publishing of the paper for its final week of the semester.

I'm excited.

P.S.: Our new website is expected to go online on Tuesday, replacing our current one. It's built in Drupal, but even that is a huge step forward from the current BLOX CMS we have to use. And ArchiveTeam is creating a backup of the current website just in case, so no online content is lost.


Yes, you can send a potato through the US mail

A while back, a friend mentioned to me that you could send potatoes through the mail. I was pretty skeptical at the time, but basic Internet research confirmed what they told me.

So a little bit later I had the opportunity to send them something, and decided to test it out. If I sent them a potato, and just a potato in the mail, would they get it? As a wannabe journalist/fact checker/Wikipedian, how could I not!

Yep.

I took a raw potato, washed it, and wrote a short message with a marker.

Then I printed out an address label (because the potato wasn't large enough for me to handwrite it) and struggled with sticking it on. Clear tape didn't work, and neither did packaging tape. Duct tape to the rescue!

I went to the post office by SJSU, and the clerk there said it would take 2 days to be delivered. They also said they had been asked to mail plenty of other "weird things", and a potato wasn't that unusual. I got a receipt so I could "track the status of my potato". And someone in line commented that I should also be sending along some sour cream :P

And then I waited, tracking online. Two, three, four days passed, and it hadn't been delivered. The recipient was in San Jose, so it just needed to head to the sorting center and then go out for delivery.

That was when I lost hope, and deemed the potato lost. Some things just sound too good to be true.

...except a week after it was supposed to be delivered, it showed up! I assume it got lost at some point, but USPS is 👌 and got it to its destination.

BuzzFeed conveniently has a list of 20 other things that we can supposedly mail. What's next?

P.S.: PHP still considers "a potato" to be a valid time. MediaWiki won't let you though.


Comments on "User freedom: A love story"

SFScon18 - Molly de Blanc - User freedom: A love story.

This is one of the most relatable software freedom talks I've watched recently. As a college student trying to make friends, let alone find romantic partners, using non-free software is incredibly difficult to avoid.

Aside from online dating, which I have no experience with, I've pretty much done everything discussed in the video. I've definitely "Internet stalked" friends to learn more about them. And I've used screen sharing to be able to watch movies with a long-distance partner, which worked pretty well.

The biggest obstacle I tend to run into is mentioned in the talk - messaging apps. By virtue of nearly everyone being on Facebook already, Messenger is the most universal. SMS could also work, except our house has extremely spotty cell service, which makes engaging in a long conversation pretty impossible.

I've made efforts in the past to convert people to Signal, with mostly mixed results. Their desire to talk to you has to outweigh the friction of setting up a new app and checking it just to talk to you.

That's unlikely to happen unless they're already a good friend, and to reach that stage, you probably have to use some non-secure/proprietary messaging app first.

And speaking of proprietary algorithms, I think it's pretty creepy that Facebook knows who I'm crushing on, often before I've realized it myself. Since I don't post on Facebook anymore, I assume it's using data from Messenger conversations, but it's definitely doing something more advanced than volume or frequency of messages.

Molly de Blanc also wrote a follow-up post on their blog that I think is worth reading.


Yellowcard - Light Up The Sky

I haven't posted music on my blog since 2015 apparently. Time for some nostalgia and feelings. Also I may have spent too much time outside in the dark this week.

Also also, the newspaper I'm writing for, the Spartan Daily, does a semi-regular thing where editors have to pick their favorite songs that fit a certain theme. Since I'm not an editor, I think I'll start posting my picks here.