Thursday, August 30, 2012

Golden rule days

This weekend, there will be a reunion of the University Daily Kansan, the student newspaper of the University of Kansas.

Readers of the Blog are probably familiar with the university, given my seasonal predilection toward writing about basketball. But I don't think I have ever said anything about the Kansan. (And a warning: this is going to be text-only. All the photos I have of that era are good, old-fashioned prints that have never visited the inside of a scanner. This will also help protect the guilty, including me.)

Although the newspaper is run and staffed by students, I have always hesitated to call it a "student newspaper." It is (or was) supported by its own ad revenue, and the students running the show were acting as professionals; all the management positions were paid.

When I was there in the glorious days of yesteryear--let's just say this was back in the day when the phrase "dot-com boom" was spoken unironically--the Kansan had a great crew. Sharp people. Fun people. It was a good time.

But more than that, we all learned a lot. Some of it was good old fashioned classroom learnin', but a sizable chunk of it was out in the real world. We learned how to chase stories by chasing them. We learned good news judgment by deciding what to pursue and how to play it. Art direction. Photography. We got better because we were doing them every day.

And to me, one of the the most incredible things about that time is that I completely took for granted how fortunate I was to work in a real newsroom before I worked in a real newsroom. In literally every job I have had--including my current one--I have encountered roughly the same organizational structure, meeting schedule, newsroom layout and even jargon as I did at the Kansan. Even then, in the early days of Web media, we had an online editor who was working hard to create a well-trafficked news site.

I don't think of myself as a newspaperman anymore. I'm a print journalist in an era where most of the printed words appear on screens of various sizes. It's an exciting time. But it turns out that the lessons I learned at the Kansan still apply today, and I suspect this is true for most of my fellow co-workers who are still in the business.

Which I guess made us students, and the term "student newspaper" perfectly appropriate.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

I second your thoughts, Gerry. Our time at the Kansan was a brilliant way to learn on the job, and it was great fun, too. I'm sad that I can't make it back for the reunion. Maybe next time. Rock chalk!