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Media in the Making
Students, alums, professors chart journalism's brave new world

by Jerod Jarvis, '11

It's dark outside as the clock ticks steadily closer to 3 a.m. Exhaustion set in about midnight, but spirits are still high in the Whitworthian office, even as an unexpected problem crops up. We just delve into the candy drawer and keep on truckin'.

Any college student with a GPA above 1.5 will tell you that staying up until the wee hours of the morning on a school night isn't the best idea. But it's just one of the many "perks" editors of The Whitworthian sign on for when they join the staff.

As editor-in-chief, I have the privilege of leading a topnotch staff of student journalists for the 2010-11 school year. It's a demanding enough job in itself, and is doubly so since the newspaper was recognized in 2009 as the top non-daily student publication in the country by the Society of Professional Journalists. The paper has also received several recent Pacemaker awards -- roughly equivalent to a Pulitzer Prize for college journalism -- from the Associated Collegiate Press; The Whitworthian is currently a finalist in two categories for the 2010 Pacemakers.

I'm proud to be part of a publication of this caliber, but the credit for the accolades we've received goes to the staffs of previous years; I've only been in charge for about four months. While entering this position with such a high standard already set was daunting, it's a challenge our staff has risen with great energy to meet. And we're not content with just meeting that standard; we want to surpass it.

One of the ways we're attempting to do this is by tackling some of the new trends that are shaking up the world of professional journalism: Online journalism has major news outlets scrambling to catch up; journalists are being required to become multimedia professionals; and social media is a riddle that many publications can't seem to unravel.

As a student journalist, I see it as imperative to develop a working knowledge of these trends. The Whitworthian has a Facebook page and Twitter feed that we use to advertise and publish online content; we launched a new website in November (www.thewhitworthian.com) that allows us to experiment more freely with dynamic online content and digital advertising; and we're pushing our staff members to engage in more than one form of journalism. Photographers are doing interviews, writers are recording stories for broadcast on the online radio station, Whitworth.FM, and reporters are being asked to "think graphically" when researching their stories, enabling us to create illustrations and graphics that both inform readers and liven up our pages.

I hope these efforts will pay off with another award-winning year for The Whitworthian. But the awards, as gratifying as they may be, aren't the reason we're willing to sacrifice a good night's rest every Sunday. As the clock passes 3 a.m. and we finally send pages to the printer, I remind myself that it's the students of Whitworth University and the pursuit of excellence that drive our efforts. And that makes it all worth it.

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