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Whitworth Today: Spring 2005

Following are Whitworthian reflections by former editors Gina (Johnson) Knudson, Jeff Carlson, and Caitlin (Clapp) Manz.


Gina (Johnson) Knudson, 1988-89, 1989-90

Q. What was it like to be editor of The Whitworthian? What were the "nuts and bolts" of the job?

A. It was a great way to stay in touch with campus issues and events. The editor needed to be a morale booster for a mostly all-volunteer staff, a supervisor for the page editors, photo editor, and advertising manager, and the idea person for editorial content.

Q. What kinds of technology did you use while editor, and were there any major technological changes at the newspaper while you worked there?

A. My first year as editor-in-chief we received a new Macintosh computer and a laser printer that replaced our old Linotype machine. With the Linotype (whose nickname was Martha) all stories had to be hand-typed by one operator and then the machine would spit out the typeset product. As editors we used Exacto knives to carefully slice the right column length and then we would wax the back and place it on a dummy sheet. The office always smelled like hot wax. We received the Mac and the desktop publishing set about a week before our first fall issue was due out. Those first years we learned that desktop publishing was not always the time-saver we thought it would be!

Q. What were the top three things you learned from your experience as editor?

A. I learned how to make a team and myself work under pressure. I learned that if both sides of an issue are angry with you, you've done your job well. Overall, I learned the power of the press. People trust you to treat their story with respect, honesty and dignity and one small mistake can make a huge difference in someone's life.

Q. How did your work as editor shape your career plans/what you're doing today? What is your current occupation?

A. When I graduated in 1990, the economy was stinky all around and worse for journalists. Newspapers and magazines were either folding or combining for a net loss of reporters, but my desktop publishing skills gave me a competitive edge for several jobs. I have worked in the world of marketing, public relations, and technical editing. I currently work as a newspaper reporter and a grant writer.

Q. What were the three most controversial issues or biggest stories on campus or in the nation during your editorial years?

A. The most controversial story I worked on at the newspaper involved an alumna who wanted to buy an ad for National Coming Out day to announce her homosexuality and to encourage students at Whitworth to be unashamed of their sexual orientation. A Whitworth employee suggested we not run the ad because of the potential harm it might do. Our Whitworthian advisor, Gordon Jackson, was on sabbatical to South Africa at the time, so I had to make a decision without the benefit of his wise counsel. I chose to run the ad as a letter to the editor and I wrote an editorial to accompany it, revealing the employee's recommendation to not run the ad. We received letters, both pro and con, for months after that.

Another brouhaha erupted when we placed a photo of a couple of naughty Mac Hall streakers on the front page. The "hiney photo," as it came to be called, caused an uproar that makes me laugh pretty hard given today's media culture.

The campaign to build a student union building was pretty big news on campus. One of the original plans called for The Whitworthian office to be moved to the basement of Arend Hall while the ASWC officers would be housed in the new building. We had quite a bit of fun with that in editorials and editorial cartoons.

Q. Are there any final anecdotes you would like to share?

A. An integral part of The Whitworthian experience was staying up all Sunday night to get the paper out. After-midnight drives through The Loop were better than a jolt of caffeine. No one could negotiate the pines better in a VW station wagon than my friend and sports editor Pete Christiansen ('89) who passed away in 1991.


Jeff Carlson, 1990-91, 1991-92

Q. What was it like to be editor of The Whitworthian? What were the "nuts and bolts" of the job?

A. My years at The Whitworthian were pretty lean, so it involved the gamut of assigning stories, writing stories, editing them, laying them out on the computer, delivering the final galleys to the printer, and picking up and distributing the issues. I didn't do all of that all of the time, but I definitely did my share of each step.

I also tried, with the help of the rest of the staff, to increase our advertising and develop a subscription system that would let alumni and parents receive copies of the paper.

Q. What kinds of technology did you use, and were there any major technological changes at the newspaper while you worked there?

A. When I arrived at Whitworth in 1988 as a freshman, The Whitworthian had just gone digital with the purchase of two Mac SE computers. I had been using Macs and Adobe PageMaker (layout software) for the last two years working on my high-school newspaper, so I came to The Whitworthian staff as a reporter and as one of the only people who knew how the new system worked. I basically laid out the first issue of the year single-handedly while the editors got up to speed on how it worked.

So my tenure at The Whitworthian, starting when I was a reporter, marked a major shift in how the paper was produced. We used Microsoft Word to write stories and PageMaker to lay out pages, which were then laser printed on two overlapping sheets of paper. Those pages were then taped to the layout templates that the printer used to print the final issue. This enabled us to change layouts later in the process if needed, and gave us more flexibility in working with stories and laying out pages. Of course, that also meant that we could leave some of the work until later in the week, which led to quite a few late nights and all-nighters.

Q. What were the top three things you learned from your experience as editor?

A. I learned that when you editorialize, you need to stake out a position and make your point. My editorials tended to be of the "here are important issues that you should consider" variety, because I either hadn't solidified an opinion on the matter or I didn't want to offend people; not good traits for an editorial page. Whitworthian advisor Gordon Jackson helped me realize that the editorial page is for expressing opinions, and part of an editor's job is to take the flak for sticking to those opinions. One upside is that strong editorial opinions generate more letters to the editor, which (a) promote healthy ongoing discussion and (b) help to fill pages on the weeks when content is slim.

You can't do everything yourself. Delegate, delegate, delegate, and let people rise to the level of their talent. I can't say I was always good at this, but looking back I can see how important it is.

If it's 2:30 a.m., and something makes you so angry that you need to explode (a computer crash, to be specific), absolutely do NOT go out to the back of the HUB and kick a dumpster. Those things are harder than they look, and your foot will hurt like hell.

Q. How did your work as editor shape your career plans/what you're doing today? What is your current occupation?

A. When I graduated, I was a little burned out on writing and editing, so I pursued graphic design for a while. My first full-time job was a production job where I was using Macs and PageMaker all day. But after three years of that I gravitated toward writing and editing again, which led me to a managing editor position with a small publishing company. Since then, I've been a freelance writer and designer. I've written almost 20 computer how-to books on subjects ranging from web design to video editing. Unlike many computer-book authors, I write and also package my books, which means I do everything: writing, editing, and layout (with the valuable contributions of freelance copyeditors and indexers), and deliver a completed book in electronic form to the publisher. So, in some respects, what I'm doing now is a direct link from my work as Whitworthian editor.

Q. What were the top three most three controversial issues or biggest stories on campus or in the nation during your editorial years? How did they shape your experience/the newspaper?

A. I remember abortion was a big issue nationally, especially in conjunction with the '92 presidential elections. I also remember a bit of an editorial frenzy when we received a letter to the editor from an alumna who was a lesbian.

During my first year as editor a student committed suicide on campus, which was a very big deal. For me personally, it was hard because I knew him (not well, but he lived in BJ when I was an R.A. there the year before), and because I was nearby when he was discovered. It was extremely difficult to be both a normal person and also a reporter who needed to find out what happened. It shook me up quite a bit, and I remember turning to Greg Orwig, '91, my news editor, for help because he was a much better journalist than I was. That wasn't necessarily "controversial" as it was difficult to handle... obviously, it was news, but do you splash it all across the front page? Do you bury it inside the issue? What's the line between reporting on the news and also being respectful of the student's memory, his family, his friends, and the Whitworth community?


Caitlin (Clapp) Manz, 2002-03

Q. What was it like to be editor of The Whitworthian? What were the "nuts and bolts" of the job?

A. Being the editor-in-chief of The Whitworthian was my greatest Whitworth experience. I always recall my hours, days and nights spent upstairs in the HUB as some of my greatest memories of real-life experience, friendship and true dedication.

The job of the editor-in-chief was like being the captain of a ship, which I suppose is a good pirate reference for Whitworth. I was in charge of overseeing everything that goes on at a college newspaper: overseeing all editors, acting as a second copy editor, keeping the budget, running the weekly editor and reporter meetings, working with the printer, planning conference trips, and thinking through both the big decisions and the everyday ones. I also saw my role as a moral compass and as an educator. In many ways, I was the public-relations liaison between the public and the newspaper. Editor-in-chief is a demanding job regarding multi-tasking and making difficult decisions, but it is also very rewarding.

Q. What kinds of technology did you use while editor regarding, and were there any major technological changes at the newspaper while you worked there?

A. The whole time I was at Whitworth, we used Quark, Adobe Photoshop and PCs (as opposed to Macs). The only major technological change was that while I was editor-in-chief, we published the first-ever color issue of The Whitworthian. It was our final issue of the 2003 school year.

Q. What were the top three things you learned from your experience as editor?

A. Sticking to my beliefs and ethics, dedication, and looking at the world from many different perspectives.

Q. How did your work as editor shape your career plans/what you're doing today? What is your current occupation?

A. Currently, I am a graduate student at Washington State University working toward a master's degree in history. As editor-in-chief, I saw how much I loved educating: myself, my peers, the reporters and the public. I love being a part of history and learning about history. Journalists are really modern historians. I wanted to go back and learn more about history and the shaping of worldviews throughout time. I also ultimately want to be an educator. Every skill an editor needs to have -- communication, writing, editing, high moral standards, and research -- is needed by a graduate student in history. The two really fit perfectly together.

Q. What were the top three most three controversial issues or biggest stories on campus or in the nation during your editorial years? How did they shape your experience/the newspaper?

A. During my time as editor-in-chief, we ran a few controversial pieces. I remember three most vividly:

  1. a piece on the ASWC President (and some other ASWC officers) getting caught drinking alcohol on campus and getting a Big Three;
  2. a piece on the Morning After Pill;
  3. a three-part series on worldviews that looked at the priority of faith at Whitworth.

These pieces were important because they challenged the campus to look at many issues, even uncomfortable issues, and to talk about and deal with these issues.

Q. Are there any final thoughts you would like to share?

A. I was a big proponent of civic journalism, so during my year as editor-in-chief The Whitworthian held a town-hall meeting for anyone on campus to come and talk about what they would like to see in the newspaper.

I believe college newspapers are integral to the community life of a campus. I truly respect Whitworth for providing us the room and trust to practice our freedom of speech and to understand the responsibility that comes with it. Even a small college newspaper can act as an important check and balance, which every institution needs.

 



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