(As told by a two-term Editor-In-Chief at a college newspaper)
1. Do cool stuff for free ‘on assignment’
Want to see a concert, upcoming movie, play or art exhibit? Two words: press pass. Tons of places are looking for exposure and press, and if you contact them saying your publication wants to write a review or behind-the-scenes feature, you can probably check it out for free. Other opportunities include trade shows, political events, festivals, etc. Use this power wisely.
2. Feel really cool while you talk about the cool free things you get to do
“What, that show at the Highline last weekend? Oh, yeah I actually saw that for free when I covered it. It was pretty sick. Wanna see some pics?”
3. Get gossip first
People will gravitate to the students who tend to be (or have the appearance of being) “in the know” about what’s going on around campus. When the whispers start, students, professors, AND administrators will come to you to find out if you have the scoop. Even if this is the first YOU are hearing of it, chances are you’re still one of the first people to know something’s up.
4. Meet the people in power
Depending on your beat, you’ll have to talk to different professors, administrators, and students for information and quotes. In the process of conducting all of these interviews to write about whatever student government is doing this week or why the school just went down three spots in the college polls, you’ll make awesome connections that will help when you need to build your LinkedIn profile or want to get into the sold-out basketball game.
5. Improve your writing skills
Nothing will whip your writing into shape faster than getting it torn apart sentence-by-sentence by a ruthless editor. Editors don’t want to have to keep fixing your mistakes, so they’ll actually take the time to explain what you’re doing wrong to make you a better writer for them. That’s a skill that will help you in class and on the job hunt.
6. Have an excuse to develop a caffeine addiction
Someone’s response when you say you’ve already had four coffees today, when you’re NOT a student journalist: “Oh my God, FOUR? Don’t you think you should cut back a little?”
Someone’s response when you say you’ve already had four coffees today, when you ARE a student journalist: “Oh my God, you’ve ONLY had four?! How are you even functioning right now? I’m making a Dunkin’ run, do you want an espresso shot in yours?”
7. Play with the fun high-tech staff equipment
Can’t afford that new $600+ SLR camera but love photography? The newspaper needs photos for the next issue. Like to play with graphics and design but don’t have the cash for InDesign and PhotoShop software? The newspaper needs people who know the ins and outs of picas and kerning. And seriously, your photos will look amazing on the front page.
8. Build your resume and portfolio
“Do you have a current writing sample?”
“Why yes, here’s an article I wrote for the paper last week.”
“Do you have an online portfolio?”
“Why yes, here is an archive of all of my work on the web site.”
“Oh, how convenient. Wow, you were really involved in school and you produced high quality work. Would you like a job?”
“Aw, thank you! Just let me think this over with all of my other offers.”
(Okay, not exactly. But you get the idea.)
9. There’s never a dull moment
What?! The assistant vice president of housing just stole $300,000 from the school and gambled it all away in Vegas?!
What?! The basketball team just won 18 straight games in a row and they’re heading to the national tournament?!
What?! Jessica dumped Mike and started dating his best friend Tommy?! We’re not gonna print that in the paper, but still! Scandal!
10. Make some of the best friends you’ll ever have
Late nights, early mornings, shared frustrations (and triumphs), and hundreds of coffee runs- can you think of a better recipe for friendship? The only people that stick with such a high-stress extracurricular are the ones with real passion, determination, and grit, and those are some good friends to have.