By Jonathan Smith, Editor in Chief
Fifteen weeks as editor of the Optimist has taught me more than how to complete a front page from start to finish in less than three hours on deadline.
When applying and interviewing for this job last semester, the newspaper adviser told me to be ready because I did not even know what would be in store for me.
Some lessons I learned early: why no one else applied for this job, and why even the skinniest editor in chief will lose weight while on the job.
Those are lessons I taught myself, but some of the most important lessons I could never have learned sitting in my dark hole of an office. They have come from listening to the hundreds, even thousands, of readers who read the Optimist twice a week.
I have learned that I can rarely predict what will inspire readers to write in or respond to about the Optimist. Stories, editorials and pictures run every week that I think will have someone up in arms about the newspaper or university. Without fail, days will pass and the paper will receive no responses about those.
More often than not, response will come from the story or opinion I never dreamed would offend anyone.
That has taught me that just because we write an editorial about it or I stick something on the front page, it does not suddenly become all-important. Many readers are just as likely to be interested in what I decide should go on page seven.
Maybe the hardest lesson I am still coming to terms with is that many of the things I spend most of my time doing each deadline are never noticed-nor do I expect them to be.
I don’t think I have ever heard anyone outside the Don Morris Center tell me, “That was a really great reverse-six flow on your front page today,” or “You really should have used ‘begin’ instead of ‘start’ in that headline.”
I continue to pay attention to those details because they are part of what makes the Optimist one of the best university newspapers in the state. Judges notice that, other journalists notice that and I think many readers do notice it at least on some level.
Even more basic than that, though, I’ve seen that many readers are just as satisfied to see a simple story about a group they are involved in as I am when I design a solid front page. Both are important aspects of the paper; one is just easy to forget about when I’m out chasing the big story or sitting in my office typing.
Twenty-eight issues down; 26 to go.
I really have no idea what will be in store for my second semester as editor, but thank you, readers, for helping make me at least that much more prepared for it.