More than just a college paper: the making of the DU Clarion community

The editor-in-chief candidates, Anita and Amy.

If someone wanted to offend a member of DU’s newspaper, the DU Clarion, all that person would have to do is to call it “just a school newspaper, almost fake, not the real thing at all.”

A statement like this would get under a Clarion writer’s skin, annoying them with what they’d believe is naivety and ignorance.

Ask anyone involved with the Clarion and they’ll tell you: This is no “fake paper.” The Clarion, they believe, is as genuine as any other paper out there, with all of the work, thought and effort put into it as any other local paper.

They’d probably even be willing to write you an opinion piece about it. But first they’d have to explain exactly how the Clarion works, starting with how the paper’s leadership is selected.

Electing a leader

The DU Clarion elected its new editor-in-chief this past Monday, thus symbolizing the Clarion’s official passing of the torch to a new generation of writers and editors.

After a long debate nomination process and a one-night debate, the Clarion staff selected sophomore Anita Balakrishnan as their leader for the next year.

The nomination event, which occurred Feb. 6, resulted in an original group of five nominees: copy editor Amy Koumis, lifestyles editor Balakrishnan, web editor Jake Bockhorst, editorial assistant Heather Cook and news editor Anna Dreiling.

By election day, which was Feb. 13, the field had narrowed to only two nominees: Koumis and Balakrishnan.

The current editor-in-chief, Cory Lamz, started off the meeting by introducing the candidates and announcing the election process.

“Last week we had five candidates; now the pool has narrowed down to two,” he said. “[Balakrishnan] is a sophomore, and [Koumis] is a junior. Neither are planning to go abroad, which comes into play because the editor-in-chief is expected to stay onboard for a full three quarters.

Anita

After randomly selecting numbers (Lamz always selects four on a scale of one to 10), Balakrishnan spoke first.

An ecology and economics major, her platform focused on creating a sense of community within the Clarion staff.

Anita Balakrishanan presents her platform speech.

“Retaining writers comes from creating a sense of community,” she said. “After being such a huge staff this year, we’ve become scattered all around and because no one is together that often, it has created that feeling. I think that having more events and having more of a clear setup where we are together more often will help with recognizing that someone is a part of the staff just as much as another person is.”

She also spoke about the Clarion’s reputation within the DU area.

“There’s this idea in some parts of the DU Community that we’re the Clarion writers, just sitting here in our office snidely commenting on the rest of the DU community and not really including them,” she said. “[Solving that] wouldn’t be anything big, maybe for national writing week we have a little event or something like that.”

Her final main point focused on improving the paper itself.

“I think that honestly [improving stories] is a dependent on the section editors making their content and pushing their writers,” she said. “Very often, if we run stories that we’re less than proud of or that haven’t been edited well, it’s because we didn’t have communication with our writers and our writers didn’t come through with the story we wanted. That comes down to that the section editors need to have a really good relationship with their writers.”

To combat this, Balakrishnan proposed that editors would have office hours for the staff writers to contact them.

Amy

Amy Koumis presents her ideas about the Clarion.

After Balakrishnan was done speaking, Digital Media Studies (DMS) and graphic design major Koumis presented her platform.

“The main reason I was interested in being editor-in-chief is because I am a transfer student, and I came to DU after working on my college newspaper at UCCS in Colorado Springs,” she said. “My experience there was not good. I was very reluctant to come here to the Clarion as a result, but I honestly have to say that every experience I’ve had here has been amazing.”

Koumis had slightly different ideas for the Clarion.

“My goals for the Clarion, in a nutshell, would have to be increasing readership in such a way that it’s not going to cause any financial stress on the paper,” she said. “The number one way to do that is to really emphasize our web-based design and in getting the word out there. A really good way to do that would be blogs, which would extend our reach. I want the Clarion to be something that people keep in their toolbar and check every day. I’d also like to streamline the process.”

Ultimately, the decision came down to the votes of the 41 people there, each scratched on a piece of paper and dropped into a pizza box. Soon after, advisor Ania Savage and Lamz counted the votes.

After Lamz announced that Balakrishnan will be the new editor elect, the staff congratulated her enthusiastically and Lamz spoke with her for a while afterwards about her responsibilities in the upcoming weeks.

Getting the stories

The whole process starts Monday nights, at Clarion meetings. The whole staff—which includes the editorial board, staff writers and contributing writers—gathers in DU’s Driscoll Underground in order to receive story assignments.

Section editors of each of the Clarion’s sections—news, lifestyles, sports, opinions and entertainment—meet with their staff writers, who are required to write two stories a week, and their contributing writers, who are required to write one, during this time.

Over the traditional pizza dinner, these staffers meet to decide on the Clarion’s content for the upcoming week.

Each editor assigns stories based off of a story idea sheet that has been accumulated and distributed about an hour before the meeting. Stories range from basic, short briefs to challenging, multi-part pieces that require extensive research and skill.

After assigning stories, the production for the rest of the night continues on. Within the night, editors are expected to lay out pages, place and edit stories, work on photos and run them through edits. The whole process is a long one, and the editorial staff usually leaves anywhere from 8 to 10 that night. The editor-in-chief, managing editor and web staff, however, have been known to stay past midnight.

Making the paper itself

A typical night at the Clarion starts differently for each person. The editorial staff, which is made up of the section editors and the assistant section editors, comes in as early as they can after classes.

They have typically been editing their writers’ stories all weekend, but the editing usually continues on into Monday nights. After editing all of the stories, the editors must lay out the pages.

The layout process starts with the ads. After framing the ads, they place stories and accompanying pictures, pull quotes and headlines. This process often requires plenty of adaptation and rearranging.

When the pages are finally laid out—which is usually after hours of work—they go to the copy editors, who are required to edit for minor grammatical and style errors. After the four of them edit and the pages are returned, the editors fix the mistakes and pass them on to the managerial staff: the editor-in-chief and the managing editor.

After these editors are satisfied with the pages, they are officially finished and the editorial staff’s process is over.

The managerial and web staff, however, must stick around a bit longer. The editor-in-chief and managing editor are in charge of creating a final master copy of the paper, sending it off to the printer and supervising the web content.

The web editors must upload the stories, pictures and headlines online, making sure that they only publish at midnight on the publish date—and usually, they’re not even out of the office by that time.

The process is not even done by then… At noon of the publish day, the distribution manager must take the newly delivered papers across campus, thus ensuring that the student body can keep up to date on DU’s day to day life.


 

2 Responses to More than just a college paper: the making of the DU Clarion community

  • ktanita
    ktanita says:

    I really liked this story because often times people do not understand how much work goes into running the Clarion and I think it gave the readers a lot of background information and it was really cool that you got to show the video of the whole election process. The story was really unique and it is interesting to see how different schools manage their newspapers, seeing as how the Clarion is a special newspaper. I’m really happy you did this piece!

  • Ariana Hernandez
    Ariana Hernandez says:

    I liked your story a lot. It gives DU students an idea of how much goes into our newspaper and how important it is to our school. You had really good pictures too. It was well written and very informative. Good job!

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