English majors lead their publications during crisis
By Savannah Tindall
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders affect almost every aspect of people’s lives. In the face of that adversity, however, Florida State University students have modified their daily routines and the way they work.
Because campus is closed, English majors who are editors in chief for several campus publications have adjusted their content and the way they produce their work. To get a better understanding of the impact on their individual publications and how they are managing under the current circumstances, editors for Her Campus FSU, FSView & Florida Flambeau, and Strike Publications answered via email the questions below.
Describe how creating content usually works for your publication.
Gabi Rodriguez, Her Campus: Creating content starts with our writers. We believe that the more freedom we give writers with their topics, the more passion they will put into their work. That is why every week, writers are either assigned news, personal, or profile. From there, writers can write about anything they want within their category—nothing is off-limits. To avoid repeat or similar topics, we have a weekly topic list that writers use to “call dibs” on a topic. This ensures that all content is unique and fresh. Each writer is assigned an editor for the semester, who then edits their article and uploads it to our site. Once the article has been uploaded, it receives another round of edits from our managing editor. Finally, it is reviewed one last time by me before I schedule it to be published. With approximately 75 weekly writers, we publish approximately 15 articles per day Monday through Friday.
Zachery Bethel, FSVIew & Florida Flambeau: The FSView prints a 16-page newspaper every Monday through the fall and spring semesters. Section editors hold weekly staff meetings where writers pitch content based on FSU and other topics pertinent to students and the community. Articles are then written throughout the school week and go through a round of edits over the weekend. We then produce the paper on Sundays in our office at the Tallahassee Democrat, working closely with a designer to layout the articles and get everything ready for print.
Janna MaCabe, Strike Publications: Normally we create content through high production photo/video shoots. These shoots require around 10 people and are super hands-on.
How has having to work remotely affected that process? How has your staff responded to that change? Does this change your responsibilities as EIC and, if so, how?
Rodriguez: Luckily, working remotely has not affected our content creation process. The entire operation already took place online, so we are still able to easily produce content in quarantine. Our staff has adapted incredibly and transitioned seamlessly. We have had no major issues thus far.
Bethel: COVID-19 has required our staff to move to Zoom and FaceTime meetings for the rest of the semester. Without printing and the need to social distance, we are no longer producing our weekly editions on Sundays and have moved all of our content online. Our staff has responded exceptionally well. Staff writers are continually creating new content. My role as EIC has changed slightly. I am certainly now more concerned with making sure my staff remains safe during these times.
McCabe: Since working remotely, it has been crucial to get creative with safe alternatives to our previously in-person shoots. My staff has been really outstanding in response to our new situation, everyone has been willing to help as much as they can, even in areas where they aren’t necessarily positioned. It makes me feel very proud! As far as a change in responsibility, I think that my role has had to become even more intimately involved in the process than it ever has before. This is completely new territory and something none of us ever could have expected, but closely communicating and working with each other to get the job done has been essential.
What is the biggest challenge of working remotely? How have you overcome it?
Rodriguez: The biggest challenge we have faced has been losing the “magic” of Her Campus. Part of what makes our publication so special is the bond that forms between our members at meetings and events. We pride ourselves on being a community of supportive and uplifting young women. As a result, friendships and bonds form among our writers and editors that ultimately strengthen the quality of our publication. We have tried to overcome this by keeping our routine as much as possible: instead of our usual Monday night meetings on campus, we now host Monday night Zoom calls. Instead of our events, we now do “Netflix Parties” online. We have been trying to find ways to keep those friendships and relationships strong, despite the distance.
Bethel: I thought the biggest challenge would be writers’ interest and availability to write but my staff has continued to be engaged and eager to pursue articles. The greatest difficulty is creating the content and finding stories worth reporting on. Our sports section has definitely taken a hit in terms of available topics and happenings to discuss. We are now planning to move to more eSports coverage.
McCabe: At the time the stay-at-home order was put into effect, we had only completed half of our shoots. I think the biggest challenge at first was to decide what was the right thing to do in this situation. The health and safety of my staff will always come first and I wasn’t sure if it were possible to finish our magazine. The solution to this problem has been keeping things simple, COVID-19 compliant, virtual, and positive.
Other than having to work remotely, how has COVID-19 affected the content of your publication?
Rodriguez: The content itself has definitely shifted to being very much centered around quarantine, isolation, mental health, and world news. Because we encourage our girls to draw from personal experience in their work, we have been publishing a lot of content that speaks to their personal experiences with quarantine.
Bethel: We ceased printing after FSU’s spring break, and we do not plan on printing our regular issues for the rest of the semester. However, we will be printing our annual "Best Of" edition and the FSU [first-year] magazine "The Almanac" in May. Otherwise, we have moved all content online.
McCabe: We are living in the midst of radical history and because of that, our content has shifted to really focus on all the lifestyle changes going on around us.
Describe the importance of leadership in your publications during these uncertain times.
Rodriguez: Leadership is crucial to the success of Her Campus, as we are the people that the members look to for guidance and support. As a leader, I make sure to remain strong for the team, even in times of great uncertainty. With that said, being a transparent leader is also important. The team knows how I feel about the major loss we have encountered by not being able to host in-person meetings and events. I believe it is important to create an open dialogue among the team in times like these to ensure that everyone feels heard and understood.
Bethel: I think it is utterly important to constantly talk with editors and writers to ensure their well-being. It is crucial to be a good listener and a helping hand. I also think it is imperative that editors try to be resilient and somewhat resolute so staff may feel a bit more comfortable.
McCabe: During a time when everything is so foggy, I think it is so important for leaders to be the strongest guiding light they can be. Simply keeping things going, keeping things safe, and keeping things as normal as possible, while still listening and adhering to the needs of our peers will make all the difference. Being there for each other is just as imperative as continuing the work.
What advice to have for other EICs that are having to make changes in their publications due to COVID-19?
Rodriguez: My best advice would be to not give up. Don’t quit on your team when they need you most. Additionally, try to keep as much normalcy as possible. SO much is changing in all of our lives, that having at least one thing stay (mostly) the same will help people stay busy and keep their routine. Despite the drawbacks of moving to a remote system, make sure your team knows it's “business as usual.”
Bethel: Remain positive. Know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and this will end at some point. But it's also important to be realistic. Understand that this is going to take time. Also, try experimenting with your weekly process. . . . Find out what best works for your staff. Maintaining a schedule has been very helpful for us.
McCabe: We are all learning to adapt to this situation we’ve been forced into, and I may not have a plethora of knowledge in the area, but the one thing that has made all the difference in the world for me, is to just keep faith. Staying positive and believing that you can still create great things is a genuine force to be reckoned with.
Click here to see the content produced by Her Campus FSU.
Click here to see the content produced by FSView & Florida Flambeau.
Click here to see the content produced by Strike Publications.
Savannah Tindall is a junior double majoring in English, with a concentration in editing, writing, and media, and public relations.
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