Application for editor – Karla Bowsher

Application for Editor
Term: Summer B-Fall 2009

Name: Karla Bowsher
Date: March 27, 2009
Year: Senior
Major: Spanish Studies GPA: 2.9
Address: See hard copy of application cover sheet
References: Ramona Rendón, FAU Spanish instructor, Spanish Club adviser; Marcia Peyton, office manager

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

My experience at the University Press thus far:
• While the copy desk is still fallible, the number of errors that make it to print has dropped dramatically since I joined the UP.
• My management skills earned me a promotion from copy editor to copy desk chief after just a few weeks at the UP. When I stepped up to lead the copy desk, it became perhaps the UP’s only functional, cohesive team this semester. In fact, according to UP Selection Committee Chairman Michael Koretzky’s appraisal of my performance, I have “effectively managed a copyediting team for the first time in a long time — at least two years.”
• I reinstated a copy flow system of my own accord. It’s still not perfect, but when I arrived at the UP, no such system was defined or documented, let alone put into place. “Copy flow” wasn’t even part of the UP’s everyday vocabulary.
• I am one of few staff members involved in the final steps of an issue. I’ve attended and essentially run every final proof (when we proofread an issue) this semester, which means that every week I partook in behind-the-scenes responsibilities that the average staff member doesn’t know exist. I already understand the basics of ad manifests. I already know to expect Boca News to regularly screw up or screw us over at the last minute. I’ve already seen articles get cut at the last minute and thus know how the editor-in-chief should handle last-minute changes. I’ve already learned how to upload an issue to the FTP after final proof (because I’ve stayed in the newsroom till 8 p.m. on a Friday night and 9 p.m. on the Thursday of spring break to single-handedly finish final proof alone so that the final proof team wouldn’t have to work on yet another Sunday morning to finish it).

My experience as an officer in an FAU student organization:
I’ve been the vice president of a student club (Spanish Club) for nearly two years, which means I am already familiar with certain administrative aspects of running the UP, given that FAU’s Student Government (SG) treats FAU student media similarly to how it treats student clubs.
• I’ve worked with SG staff members who are key contacts for the UP, including the SG treasurer and the SG Accounting & Budget Office coordinator.
• I’ve sat in on a budget hearing, am familiar with budget requests, and know well that thorough documentation of an organization’s activities can do wonders for the justification of its budget requests. In fact, before I became an officer of the Spanish Club, the club had not kept records; today, because of me, it has meticulous records and is about to receive its first budget in years.
• I’m familiar with SG Expense Justification Forms. In fact, the SG treasurer told me that the last Expense Justification Form that I submitted was “the most thorough” one he’d ever received.
• I know how to reserve Student Union rooms, classrooms, the free speech lawn, the bookstore lawn and Breezeway tables.

My experience as an administrative assistant:
I’ve worked for several years as an administrative assistant in a medical practice, which has helped me to hone skills that would aid me as editor-in-chief.
• Because I work in a small practice, I’ve learned to wear multiple hats. That is to say, while my title is “administrative assistant,” I balance administrative, medical and clerical responsibilities daily.
• I’ve dealt with every manner of personality. Consequently, I’ve learned to take curmudgeons in stride and react professionally in delicate situations.
• I train all new employees, which I have already benefited from at the UP. I train employees partly by unilateral instruction followed by demonstration but, more importantly, also by doing. Many of the skills that I am responsible for imparting to new employees are best learned by active participation, not passive instruction. Similarly, much of what new UP staff members must learn is best learned by doing.

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

Major strength:
A core of dedicated senior staff members with multiple years of experience at the UP. Though few in number, these staff members comprise the UP’s backbone: Brandon Ballenger (senior writer), Jordan Blanchett (multimedia editor), Michele Boyet (editor-in-chief) and Susan Wiesenberg (art director), among others. Specific examples include:
• Brandon balances his UP job as senior writer with graduate courses and his job as an undergraduate instructor. Yet he has found time for me every time that I have consulted him as a former copy desk chief or a seasoned staff member who has held multiple UP positions.
• Without Susan, final proof wouldn’t happen half the time. Susan shows UP every Friday morning for final proof, often driving from Miami. She has even worked every Sunday morning on which the final proof team had to work because — for reasons often beyond their control — they couldn’t finish final proof on Friday. And only two UP staff members can say that of themselves. (The other is me, for the record.)

Major weakness:
The budget (a detailed outline of the assignments for a given print issue). While the budget has improved since the beginning of the semester, it still needs a lot of work. The budget is the foundation of every issue, yet this semester we seem to have resigned ourselves to its mediocrity. Specific examples include:
• Budgets rarely or never mention: 1) which section of the newspaper each assignment will run in; 2) the listings section; 3) article angles; 4) Web-exclusive assignments; 5) assigned photographers; 6) sources; 7) photography deadlines; 8) illustration deadlines; 9) lede and nutgraph deadlines.
• Budgets are routinely compiled sans their most critical element: communication. As a result, they often include inaccurate information and sometimes impractical deadlines, which is no way to start an issue. Solid budgets demand that their compiler communicate in advance with every staff member involved with a particular issue, yet we often act like the budget process doesn’t start until the budget meeting — i.e., just three and a half days before final proof.

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

Improving copy flow. Like the budget, copy flow has improved since the beginning of the semester but still has a long way to go.
• Copy flow starts at the budget, so I will first appoint a new budget compiler.
• She and I will then consult upper-level staff (i.e., staff members who attend budget meetings) for their opinions about what is wrong with the budget and ask for their suggestions for its improvement.
• She and I will next work together to improve the budget template in a joint effort that will start by addressing every problem outlined in my answer to #2.
• I believe that communication is the heart of good copy flow, and as UP Selection Committee Chairman Michael Koretzky has pointed out, I’ve already “increased and improved communication with editors and designers” this semester. As editor-in-chief, I would continue to focus on improving internal communication.
• In my opinion, a deadline-less budget is practically pointless. So, after the new budget compiler and I have added to the budget template the deadlines outlined in my answer to #2, I will personally stay on her case until we can have a budget meeting in which the distributed budget lacks not a single deadline.
• I will follow through with this deadline pledge by documenting in the newsroom, for all staff members to see, each person’s deadlines for each issue and whether they met them or how over-deadline their submitted assignments were.
• I hereby vow to end weekend proofs. So, I will require the following staff members to spend their Sunday mornings watching the final proof team forced to spend their Sunday mornings finishing final proof when final proof couldn’t be finished on Friday partly on account of said staff members:
1) staff members who fail to both a) meet deadlines and b) give all applicable parties the common courtesy of an advance notice that their work will be late.
2) staff members who fail to meet deadlines due to reasons that were within their control.
This may seem harsh — and staff members who do not understand my position will surely label it unduly bitchy — so all I ask is that staff members reserve judgment of this strategy until after they witness how much more we will respect and do our damnedest to meet deadlines as a direct result of this strategy.
• Lastly, I will continue to refuse to lower my expectations for the UP. Some staff members won’t be able to look past that I do this because I believe in the UP, not because I get off on coming off like a bitch for the hell of it. But I believe strongly in the basic teacher psychology that students live UP to their expectations. And if I don’t continue to watch our progress closely and critique it, the UP would never become the even more awesome student newspaper that I know it can be.

4. What novel methods will you employ to ensure the University Press covers every FAU campus?

I’m not omniscient, so I can’t vouch for the novelty of my ideas. But I am willing to dedicate time and legwork to strengthening our relationships with other campuses — which is what it’s going to take to successfully balance our coverage of all seven FAU campuses in the long term.
• I will reach out to other campuses by consulting their respective SG leaders for their opinions and suggestions and by increasing our presence on the other campuses through increased communication both inside and outside of the classroom.
• I will try my hardest to conduct some of our meetings on other campuses or help interested non-Boca students make it to meetings on our campus.
• I will add to our Web site an open forum-like page dedicated to improving channels of communication with and the flow of ideas between the seven campuses. This page will invite non-Boca students to share their opinions of our coverage of their campuses and encourage them to share their ideas for how we could better that coverage and share their ideas for non-Boca articles.
• I will personally follow each campus online or delegate the task. The Internet leaves us no excuse not to keep UP with news, events and developments on other campuses. Every campus has its own Web site. Some non-Boca campuses dedicate Web pages to their own press releases, campuses announcements, upcoming events and newsletters. Some non-Boca campuses host lecture series, which can offer excellent potential article ideas, like the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s fascinating yet seemingly little-known weekly Ocean Science Lecture Series.

5. What original ideas do you have, [sic] and what specific resources will you commit, [sic] to UP [sic] Online [sic]?

“Ideas” and “resources” aren’t good enough: We need to rethink our Web site and start looking at it differently. I will start by addressing what I see as our site’s two biggest obstacles.

Problem #1:
Every staff member contributes to our print newspaper, yet we dump our Web site in one person’s lap. The vast majority of our staff has nothing to do with our site.
• Solution:
More of us need to be involved with our Web site. To start, every editor and photographer should know the basics of uploading to the site. This would help more of us to better understand and appreciate the Web site as well as allow our multimedia editor to also edit and proofread, for she excels at both. It’s she with whom I primarily intend to work to strengthen the skills of our current editors and train new editors, and I refuse to limit her skills to the Web just because she’s one of too few who know how to upload — a simple task that any of us could learn. I’ve already obtained my own log-in name and password for College Publisher 5 (or CP5, the program with which we run our site) and had an initial one-on-one CP5 lesson with the multimedia editor. I will also reserve an instructional lab and hold a UP seminar about CP5 basics.

Problem #2:
Our print newspaper reaches a few thousand readers, yet our Web site struggles to register a few hundred hits.
• Solution:
More of us need to contribute to our Web site. It’s little more than a cyber facsimile of our print newspaper. I will involve more of our staff with the site and increase site-exclusive content by requiring writers and photographers to contribute one assignment exclusively to the site for every x assignments they publish in print (with x being determined by the number of staff members contributing to the Web and the frequency with which they currently contribute to print). I will also include Web assignments on our budgets; treating Web assignments differently from print assignments only furthers the disconnect between staff and site.