Understanding The Lawrentian’s editing process

Two weeks ago, my content submitted to the Opinions & Editorials section of The Lawrentian became a center of controversy. Specifically, it was my lack of content that sparked this controversy. Rather than including the content of my op-ed, “Feel -good public relation stunts harm fraternities” under its title, Jessica Morgan’s op-ed “Charge courageously into a messy collaboration” was printed for a second time, directly under her actual article.

I would like to cheerfully remind the community that I got a good laugh out of it. Whether my content makes it to The Lawrentian each week or not is a trivial matter to me. It was an honest mistake on the part of our editors. My article was reprinted. I was paid for two weeks of content, and life went on.

However, the Lawrence community seemed to have viewed the matter with more ire than myself. Two comments on Yik Yak about The Lawrentian weighed in on the matter. The first Yak said, “Honestly, the Lawrentian makes me embarrassed to be a Lawrentian sometimes.” The second said, “Nice job misprinting the Lawrentian you f—— idiots. Do you even have editors?”

Some major universities, such as the University of Missouri at Columbia, have newspapers with massive budgets, top-notch facilities and real journalism programs that allow them to create top-notch pieces of print journalism. Often, state school newspapers are a product of the journalism programs there. Professors have a direct role in the editing process and the programs receive much more funding.

Unfortunately, we do not have access to these resources, which increases our tendency to make errors, such as the double-printed op-ed two weeks ago. There is no journalism program at Lawrence. We do not have any faculty advisors with journalism experience to oversee our operations. The Lawrentian is an operation that is entirely student run. So, the fact that the editorial board has the drive and organizational skills to get an edition out each week is remarkable in itself.

Currently, I serve as The Lawrentian’s operations manager. I play a very small role in The Lawrentian. As operations manager, I partially manage the financial operations of the paper. There are two other editorial board positions that manage the paper’s finances. What this means is that although I do not take a direct role in the actual editorial process, I have close insight into the conditions under which our editors work and the pressure they face each week.

The section editors, copy editors and other individuals directly involved in the editing process face an incredibly stressful task each week. Covering sports events, guest speakers, concerts and panel discussions requires precise coordination and planning. Some may think that covering an event is as easy as showing up.

However, planning which events to cover and ensuring our writers can cover them accurately is a huge challenge. Our copy editors have to sift through about 30 pieces of content week, averaging between 500 and 750 words each. This takes time, diligence and a great deal of caffeine. When our Copy Chief Amaan Khan and Editor-in-Chief Zach Ben-Amots work into the early morning—around 4 a.m.—each week, human errors are bound to occur.

Our writers receive little training in their work. This is not because we neglect the quality of our articles or are unsupportive of our writers. We simply do not have the time or resources to invest in training for our writers. It is an unfortunate reality for our student newspaper.

Despite factual errors, our writers tend to learn very, very quickly and generally submit great content. Nothing is more nerve-wracking than making errors or being accused of bad journalism. Like our editors, writers are simply working with the resources and difficult circumstances they have.

I have been submitting content since the fall of 2013 and I have been subjected to heavy criticism before. Last spring, I submitted an op-ed criticizing our school’s language requirements, and received dense, profanity-laden emails from professors, international students and parents.

To have your moral character judged on the content of an article submitted to an underfunded, understaffed and overworked student newspaper is a very disheartening experience. Still, those were my words. I did not choose to retract my opinion, even though many people were not fond of it. My words were no accident.

The double-printing incident two weeks ago was an accident. It was a product of stress and human error that each and every one of us is familiar with. When somebody calls some of my closest friends at Lawrence “f—— idiots” over Yik Yak for a freak error or expresses that they are embarrassed by the editorial process in which they have no part, I get pretty upset.

Throughout this ordeal, I have learned one thing: Yik Yak is a far more shameful, hurtful and backward aspect of our school than The Lawrentian has ever been. It continually provides an outlet to express the ugliest parts of ourselves. More importantly, it gives individuals a means to throw undeserved insults at each other. Still, I have faith that my cohorts here can benefit from the additional perspective I’ve offered.

I know that the insults leveled at our copy chief and editor-in-chief pale in comparison to the sexist, racist and homophobic insults liberally used on Yik Yak, which is why the editorial board and I do not feel personally harmed. The comments made are far from the worst that the Lawrence Yik Yak have seen.

Nonetheless, they indicate that some Lawrentians can use more peace and understanding in their lives. While we are ungrateful for the insults, we hope that the writers of these Yaks can empathize with the stress that we experience during the editorial process and refrain from these hapless insults in the future.