Two years ago, I assumed the job as Editor in Chief of The Signal with the broad and somewhat prideful goals of improving a publication that had seen its reputation on campus suffer significantly over the last decade or so.
With this issue, I leave with a sense of accomplishment.
Having worked with The Signal a few years before coming in as Editor in Chief, it’s a fair assessment to say that every change in leadership in this organization is like a change in seasons: the publication continues, just as it has for the past 77 years, with changes that can be either mildly or starkly different from what came before.
When my initial team and I started in August 2008, we came in with minimal assistance from the previous administration, though this came more from the four month gap that separated the teams than from a concerted effort by either team to keep a distance from the other.
Over the course of that first year, we went with a combination of instinct and whatever we had learned from our previous experiences at The Signal. At various points, it felt like we were struggling to put together a quality publication. The feedback we heard from the campus community, though, was responsive to what we were doing. While we didn’t necessarily get everything right, we were learning.
This year, in spite of some hiccups along the way, more progress was made. An overhaul in our layout both at the beginning of the year and midway through the year helped to keep the paper fresh. Even with this issue, our last issue of the semester, we’ve introduced a few tweaks to the layout in an effort to show that style, in fact, does matter in the assembly of a quality newspaper.
The changes we made with The Signal also spilled over to our entertainment magazine, the Urbanite. The Urbanite, founded in 2002 as an arts and entertainment outlet for The Signal, originally ran every week in a newspaper format similar to The Signal. This format changed to a biweekly magazine during the fall of 2006, using a combination of newsprint with more professional-quality covers.
Upon my team’s arrival in August 2008, among the first suggestions made to us both by campus administrators and previous staff members was to close the Urbanite, as the publication was plagued with a dwindling amount of campus interest. As a last-ditch effort of sorts, we proceeded with the Urbanite anyway, but in a revamped format that put the issues at one per month, with an increase in page count and a change to a full magazine format, complete with the glossy pages and high-resolution photos that help to distinguish a newspaper and a magazine in a physical sense.
The effort, unfortunately, did little to help. Readership for the new Urbanite was loyal but ever-dwindling. One of the few areas of success came in placing some of the more time-sensitive articles that would normally be classified as “Urbanite material” in a special weekly section of The Signal.
Finally, at the beginning of this semester, the decision was made to fully incorporate the content that made up the Urbanite back into The Signal as a new section, now known as Entertainment. The change has been a positive one for the main publication. We’ve been able to successfully diversify the content of The Signal and provide something that we hope is of interest to every student on a weekly basis.
Among the biggest changes we’ve made, though, are some changes internally that on a week-to-week basis, you, the reader, might not notice. Beginning this year, we’ve started implementing stricter requirements for our writers in an effort to produce better content for The Signal on a weekly basis. Starting next year, writers will be required to go through training sessions to ensure that they are kept up-to-date on how to successfully write for any section of the paper, whether it’s News or Perspectives.
After two long years, though, my time with The Signal must come to an end. As Editor in Chief, at least. Having seen the team that’s coming in, though, I have the utmost confidence in the section editors, copy editors, staff members, and especially my replacement as Editor in Chief, Sheena Roetman.
At the end of my time in my current role, I feel that the changes we’ve made to this publication over the past two years have worked to make this a better publication for our university, and I can leave knowing those who take over next year will continue to work to improve your newspaper.
My thanks to the staff of The Signal over the past two years, especially the staff of this semester, who have helped me survive the most turbulent of four semesters I’ve worked here. I can’t wait to see what you all do next with this publication.
With that, this season of The Signal’s long and varied history concludes. Here’s to a new season.