Don’t make us resort to pressuring you into service
We’ve once again reached the point in the year where we open up applications for the Argosy’s editorin-chief. To put it frankly, no one really wants to take the job, in large part because we’ve build a culture at the paper of hyping up the amount of work and stress that come with the title. I’m hoping to parse some of the details of the position here in order to entice someone – or perhaps two co-applicants – to apply.
The job is a lot of work, but more than that, it requires a student in a particular stage of their degree, because it helps if you can avoid taking a full course load. The honorarium is supposed to be indexed to tuition so that the EIC can afford to take an additional year to complete their degree and focus on running the paper.
The compensation isn’t great, but the title is a nice addition to a CV. Anyone familiar with a newsroom will know that you’re probably a strong writer, that you’ve developed the ability to work under pressure for long hours, and that you can successfully have almost 30 people report to you.
The issue of compensation, though, still looms over the job. You’d make roughly the same amount of money working two shifts a week at minimum wage during the school year as you would if you were EIC. Poor pay is a vicious circle in some ways because it acts as a deterrent for some applicants, meaning that we end up hiring someone at the last minute. What we really need is someone to take the job with a single mindedness to reorganize the pay scheme to make it both more fair and more attractive to people.
The office doesn’t need to be covered in gold leaf or offer a sizeable retirement package, but honoraria should at least offer people a reason to work for the paper other than “love of journalism” or “desire to pad your CV.” If you take the job with the goal of fixing compensation, I will invite you to my house and make you dinner and tell you everything I know about journalism and the Argosy.
Another problem is the ideal candidate would have several “skill sets” that aren’t necessarily overlapping. At a student paper, the job of EIC has a significantly larger editorial component than it would if it were a professional paper. This means we have someone doing a lot of planning and maintenance for the paper who is also supposed to be able to catch articles that need reworking. These are two very different skill sets, and it’s not hard to notice that many of the strongest editors at the paper in the past years have been horribly disorganized.
Fortunately, a couple years ago, the paper added a managing editor to take some of the pressure off of the EIC. Depending on the skill set of the two people occupying the top positions, you’ll end up doing very different things and hopefully playing off of each other. One of the other nice things about the job is that there are a lot of very capable people at the paper who don’t want it, but do want other jobs. Having section editors you can count on is crucial to success, and it is nice to know that certain people will get their part done without you having to check up on them.
Any job at the Argosy is rewarding for many of the same reasons: Your coworkers are fun and usually interested in doing some substantive journalism. It’s also satisfying to look at the wall of papers at the end of the year and know that you made them largely from scratch. Even if you’re not ready to considering becoming EIC this year, I’d recommend spending some time as a reporter or an editor in the coming years and giving it some thought. The turnover rate in student journalism is high enough that everyone can get a chance to try their hand at helming the Argosy, if you’ll forgive the pun.