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.