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Attention Technoids; Technician Part II

From Tim Peeler, former Technician Editor and active State COMM participant:


Here are a couple of updates for everyone on the e-mail list and those who have contacted me via Facebook. Had a long cup of coffee with Saja Hindi, who was last year’s editor in chief and one of the members of the committee formed to help come up with ideas to help Technician move forward. http://www.savetechnician.com.

For all you old fogeys out there, just wanted to let you know that we aren’t the only ones who love the newspaper and appreciate the experiences and opportunities we had while there. I think that’s a feeling that spans all generations.

I was also at a two-hour meeting of campus communicators today and a good portion of that meeting was devoted to talking about the situation at Technician. Lots of ideas were bounced around. I have also received ideas from lots of concerned alumni.

Finally, I spoke briefly last night with Tom Stafford, who has been fielding lots of calls and e-mails about the current situation. The university administration is certainly paying attention.

Again, I believe the tactic that hinted of a shutdown was a bit of an over-reaction. There is zero chance that Technician will cease publication in the near future. However, there are some real challenges going on right now and there are certainly ways that we can help.

•             First, you should all know that Technician has been advertising for a full-time production manager position, someone who will help facilitate getting the paper out the door on a daily basis. With so many people with newspaper experience out there, I am sure there are plenty of well-qualified people for the position. I don’t know completely the job description and where that job will lie within the hierarchy of the  full-time staff, but it could be a move in the right direction. However, one of the complaints I’ve heard repeatedly from students is that there is already too much oversight of the paper right now, so they are a little wary of adding another level of bureaucracy to the production of the paper.

•             There does seem to be a great deal of animus between the staff and the full-time staff.  It is not productive at this point to get into a finger-pointing mess, so let’s not go there. But it sounds like there should be an intervention of some kind in this area, with both sides willing to come to the table and make some changes. Right now, under present working conditions, no one wants to be editor-in-chief. That’s just sad.

•             There are plenty of people coming through the doors, wanting to work for Technician. However, because of time commitment and work load, only a few are willing to stay for a lengthy amount of time. Staff retention is the No. 1 issue. Process is also a concern. Newly hired staff members are required to complete a six-week training period for they can have stories published in the paper. Editors are required to maintain monthly training. And all staffers are required to do a year-long diversity review of every issue, to make sure all classes, ages, races, etc. are well represented in each story. (As you might imagine, this is a time-consuming duty.) None of us worked at Technician to get rich, but currently staffers are paid $10 per story – as long as they have two stories per month that are reviewed and edited by the writing coach, who is a graduate assistant in the English Department who maintains regular office hours in the building where Technician is currently located. Editors are still paid, though I am not sure about the amount. Any current or recent staff members who can elaborateon this, please do.

Here are some of the ideas that have been discussed about how we can help. Let me know what you think.

•             While it is tempting for old-fogey alumni like most of us tocome in and say here is what you should do to make Technician work better, I think that is exactly the wrong way to go about it. Sure, they have askedfor our help, but I’m sure they don’t want us to be over-involved, especially in the production of the paper. Bradley Wilson, the adviser, has suggested creating a mentoring program, with staff members working with alumni who are willing to spend time with them and “show them the ropes.” However, I think the staffers might see this as another level of bureaucracy that they have to go through. If they want the help, obviously, any of us are willing to step up. We just need to let them know that.

•             Since this whole episode began with the academic problems of the most recent editor in chief, my thought is that the alumni might be helpful in setting up an academic support program for Technician staffers. We all have areas of expertise and we all have real-world experience that is valuable not just for Technician, but for helping with academic pursuits (with the possible exception of Scott Keepfer). Since one of the problems is that the editors and top-level reporters are spending 50-60 hours in the offices (you know — just like we did) perhaps it would be helpful if we could help them with academics and with time management.

•             Madelyn Rosenberg suggested a series of house ads/recruitment videos that would highlight successful alumni, both in and out of the field of professional journalism. Obviously, we can all come up with ideas like William Friday, Jim Hunt and Chris Hondros. But there are scores of other alumni who would be excellent ambassadors and examples of the value of working for Technician. Myself, I think of people like Jeff Bender, former editor in chief, who loved working for Technician, loved taking on the administration, who hired our first writing coach, Dwayne Walls, and who knew from the beginning that he was never going to go into journalism because he wanted to go back and operate that family farm. That, my friends,is the perfect NC State story. And Jeff has given me excellent input about how to improve the paper, which he gets from his son, Jacob, who is now a freshman at State.

•             Dave Parker suggested a legacy scholarship, funded by alumni, that would be for the editor-in-chief or a rising young staff member to keep them interested in working their way up the ladder. If it was a competitive selection process, perhaps it would be a goal that younger staff members would strive for. I think there is merit to the idea, but that the details need to be developed further.

•             Last year, Matt Lail began working on an alumni group for graduates of NC State’s English Department, and we had some success in getting in touch with alumni through a simple Facebook page. He and I met with Jason Gipe from the Alumni Association, and we have discussed the possibility of further developing an alumni group that reaches out to the English department and all student media. We didn’t get great response from alumni when Matt tried to organize a luncheon at Homecoming. But I think this current crisis is an impetus for us to pursue this with a lot more passion. We can’t just be concerned about this right now, when the crisis is fresh, and ignore it later when we all go back to our regular lives. So having an alumni group might help this process.The Alumni Association will work with us, and help fund a gathering of alumni at some point during the year. I think we should take advantage of it.

•             You may have seen the website that launched today called www.savetechnician.com. Go through it. Tyler Dukes, Mark McLawhorn, Saja Hindi and Ben McNeely spent the weekend putting it together and got a web designer to put it together for free. They did an awesome, awesome job. Look it over and let me know if you have suggestions for changes or additions. And, if you haven’t signed up for the alumni directory, please do so. For everyone who wants to know what they can do to help, this is a good start.

Finally, here is an idea floated by several people that hopefully will be facilitated by former photo editor Greg Hatem, who has access to restaurants in downtown Raleigh. For those in the area, and others who are willing to travel, the alumni should host a social/networking event to get to know current staff members of Technician. It would allow us to get to know each other a little better, and maybe share some ideas. I’ll talk with Greg about when and where this event could be and let everyone know. We are all busy, but we should all make an effort to participate, if possible.

As always, any feedback you have is greatly appreciated.

For those affiliated with Technicai, or those just touched by its prose on a daily basis,

Passion Rules!

1 of Many


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