Application for Editor

Name: Amanda Leth Year: Senior Major/Minor: Public Communications / Sociology, GPA 3.1Current Address: 610 Villa Circle Boynton Beach 33435

1) Describe any academic, professional, and/or extracurricular experiences that qualify you to lead the University Press.

Academics have always been a strong feature of mine. I began taking college classes when I was a junior in high school, and I’ve maintained a high GPA ever since. I am in my last year at FAU and only have a few more classes until I complete my degree in public communication with a minor in sociology. My academic career has taught me how to focus, pay attention to details and, most importantly, how to work with other people. I don’t groan when I hear the words group project, because I perform at my best when I work with others – even if it sometimes means doing an unfair amount of the work. I was editor of my high school literary magazine, which might not seem to merit a lot of respect in the world of journalism, but the writing experience alone makes it worth mentioning. In addition to the writing experience, I was in control of the editing, design, photos and layout. My time working for a high school magazine has given me tremendous insight into running a publication.

I will not pretend to have loads of professional experience, because, like most people at the UP, I am a college student. And like most college students, I have had a random array of retail and server jobs, all of which have taught me to how to deal with people – even when I don’t like them.

Nothing qualifies me more to lead than my experience in the past year at the UP. I started out as just a staff writer, and I learned a lot in a short amount of time. I became assistant Web editor, followed by features editor. The UP allowed me to try many different positions so I could find my strengths and weaknesses. Currently my position is staff writer, but I do a lot more than just write articles. I am in charge of running Best Bets, the weekly entertainment section online, and editing blogs and other articles. Basically, I’m the go-to person without the title or the compensation, because I like to try a little bit of everything. During the time I spent as project manager of the year-in-review issue, the UP was being run by one of the worst editor-in-chiefs it’s ever had, most of the staff was away on vacation, the designer held the entire issue hostage, and somehow we still produced a decent issue. I made mistakes and learned from them, and I know what works and what doesn’t work. I am still learning every day.

2) Describe a major strength and a major weakness of the University Press this semester (Spring 2008). Cite specific examples to support your claim.

I have been at the UP when it was low and when it was high, and I have learned this staff’s weaknesses and, more importantly, their strengths. There have been two major strengths this semester at the UP. First, the staff has proved that they are a major asset: They have the ability to thrive and move on even during really bad circumstances. After our last editor-in-chief quit, the paper went from horrible to decent in a matter of weeks mainly because a few key people really pulled together to make a difference. Dori Zinn, Brandon Ballenger, Michele Boyet, Reese Chiavari, Jordan Blanchett and I really worked hard during those weeks to make sure the next few issues would be decent so that the rest of the staff didn’t lost faith in the paper. It takes a great group of people to pull together, especially after having the editor-in-chief fire everyone and quit a month later, and still manage to improve.

Another major strength of the UP is our design team. Currently we have a magazine/tabloid style, and although that wasn’t introduced this semester, it has greatly improved this semester with the letter from the editor and the cover, which includes the popular “You Don’t Say” section. Having a magazine/tabloid style provides a great opportunity for designers, photographers and students who want to eventually write for alternative publications or magazines, which the majority of the staff wants.

Even though the paper improved and is transitioning, we are still dangerously weak on edgy content. Weak content is a result of the weak copy flow system that we have in place. We still don’t have section editors except for art and sports. There aren’t staggered deadlines, nor are their defined deadlines in general. The same few people are putting the issues together week after week, and as a result they are over worked and exhausted. There aren’t meetings in which the staff can bounce around ideas. Instead, a few people decide what stories should go in the issue and what should go on the cover. I realize we’re working on deadline, but putting more people in charge could alleviate this problem, even if it takes some time to train them. Michele uploads the Web site almost every night, and she assigns the stories for print and for the Web every week. Assigning more management positions to spread out the responsibilities will help to improve content, because staff members can focus on their specific sections and learn every week.

3) Describe the single most important goal you want to accomplish as editor, and detail exactly how you will do so.

The most important thing that I want to accomplish is to improve content. If the content gets better, the photos, the design and everything else will follow in its footsteps. Improving content will also naturally boost readership, and more students will want to join the staff. The more successful stories have been the ones that students can relate to. Upper-level writers need to work on large projects, like student government investigations and special issues, where they take the time to investigate properly. Taking the time to get the facts right and investigate is really important to rebuilding our credibility. New staff writers need to cover popular events and learn the basics. I know Michele has made Brandon the managing editor, which was a good decision, but we need a content editor as well. The content editor can help find and assign stories, as well as cut bad stories from the paper. There need to be section editors again and at least one for every section. This way they can focus solely on that section and spend the time making it better each week. There should also be meetings every week about what’s going in the next issue. Many of the staff members aren’t aware of what’s going in the issue until the day before, or the day of, final proof, and the group at final proof is very small. Without the entire staff being involved in the process, we will never get any better as a whole. Not only are we stifling our learning abilities, but the issues themselves are suffering. There have been a few occasions where senior staff members have ideas on how to make the issue better, but because they are only seeing the issue for the first time on final proof, there isn’t enough time to make the changes that are necessary.

4) What novel methods will you employ to ensure the University Presscovers every FAU campus?

Recruiting – plain and simple. We need to find students who actually go to classes on other campuses and are interested in working for us. We’re never going to cover other campuses unless we have access to students who actually attend classes on other campuses. Half of my story ideas come from just walking around campus, seeing and hearing things, and scanning the bulletin boards. We should go into journalism, communication, photography and design classes at other campuses and give them the standard “you-wont-get-a-job-without-clips speech.” Hopefully this will get through to them. Getting people in the door is easy enough – a few slices of free pizza usually takes care of that – but getting them to stay and actually contribute is the more difficult part. Orientation recruitment is important because students from all different campuses must attend Boca orientation. Orientation is a great way to target the maximum amount of students all at one time. Last year, the staff recruited Irene Medina, who came in second place for best new writer for a Bailyn Award last semester, at orientation.

5) What original ideas do you have, and what specific resources willyou commit, to covering FAU news – both breaking and investigative – inprint and on the Web?

Breaking news is always going to be a challenge. Considering the fact that the UP has made many mistakes in the past while covering hard news, I think its wise to slowly start covering breaking news again, and breaking news should only be covered on the Web at first-where we can fix it if we make a mistake. I also want to lead by example and cover more hard news myself. This way I can learn that covering breaking and investigative news can be accomplished with a better system for writers and editors. We should use the good editors we have like Philip Valys, who doesn’t seem to miss much when he edits, to help edit more news stories. Appointing a news editor first and foremost is the most important step in covering FAU news. In addition to a news editor, I think it’s important to have a news editor’s assistant. The news editor and the assistant should also be trained to upload the Web site, so they can upload breaking stories right after they’ve been edited – which is when they need to be up. By having an assistant, we are insuring that a news editor is being properly trained for the future as well.