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Campus newspaper delivers information, provides opportunity

November 20, 2008

At 10 p.m. Wednesday night some students are busy relaxing, while others are celebrating a successful hump day at the bar. But for a small group of students in North Hall room 304, there is not time to relax as the finishing touches of the Student Voice are frantically being applied.

“At 10 p.m. tensions are high, the designers are getting tired and usually Ben and I are making any last edits to stories and columns,” Editor-in-Chief Phillip Bock said.

The finishing touches that are applied early Thursday morning end a week and a half long process that begins every Friday afternoon two weeks before that issue is sent to press when reporters get their story assignments.

The reporters for the Voice are journalism majors and minors enrolled in News Practicum (JOUR 304). Each student is given a “beat,” a section of campus that the reporter is assigned to cover. The practicum students turn in weekly beat reports, which Bock uses to formulate story assignments that he then gives to the reporters. Student Voice advisor and journalism professor Andris Straumanis said that practicum students reporting for the Voice gives students a unique opportunity to experience a professional atmosphere.

“For the students, it gives them a venue to see their work published and to deal with the professional concerns of going out interviewing people, preparing stories and having to be a good professional journalist,” Straumanis said in a phone interview. “It gives them on-the-job training in a sense.”

The rough drafts of those stories are due the following Friday by 3 p.m. when Bock and Assistant Editor Ben Brewster devote their Friday afternoons to editing 10 to 15 potential stories for the upcoming issue.

“I enjoy editing the stories,” Brewster said. “I guess that’s why I’m in journalism and why I have this job.”

The reporters pick up the edited rough drafts on Monday and the final drafts are due by 10 p.m. Tuesday, so the stories are ready for Wednesday morning when the paid staff comes in to put together the paper for the week.

The staff then takes over editing and laying out pages, cutting the lengths of stories to fit the specific size constraints and selecting pictures to use.

“I read the columns and figure out which are the best ones to go at the top of the pages,” Viewpoints Editor Abby Maliszewski said. “Then I visualize what it’s going to look like.”

The entire process, from writing to editing to design, is done completely by full-time students. Long after the stories have been assigned, the staff embarks on the long, tedious Wednesday night journey that eventually results in the finished product picked up on newsstands Friday.

That is the process that has been used since the beginning of the Student Voice 91 years ago. Former advisor, but not the original advisor, journalism department Chair Colleen Callahan said the hard work done by the Student Voice staff serves an important purpose on campus.

“[The Voice] plays an important role on campus; to provide verified informative news, keeping everyone informed,” Callahan said. “It also provides a vehicle for anyone and everyone to express their opinions without being intimidated. No other place on campus does that, everything else is filtered.”

The Voice staff consists of many journalism majors, but is not run by the journalism department and all students do have the opportunity to play a role in a newspaper that Straumanis said is literally “their newspaper.”

“The Student Voice is a student organization, it is not the department of journalism, it is not a specific class,” Straumanis said. “It is a student organization that is open to anybody on campus. It’s their newspaper, in a sense, to make it what they want.”

In order to be a part of the process students simply have to submit an application to be an editor, columnist or other position. For some, adding another item to their plate is unfeasible, but for others like Maliszewski, working at the Voice adds a much-needed release from rigors of a typical day in college.

“The Voice is a kind of escape that gets you away from regular college class work,” Maliszewski said.

If you all too often find yourself wasting a Wednesday evening away by doing nothing, perhaps joining a student organization is just what you need.

“It’s a great chance for students to get professional experience with a newspaper,” Bock said. “Or just an opportunity to become more involved and informed about what is happening on the UW-River Falls campus.”