As a past editor of my high school newspaper and a current staff writer for the Duke Chronicle, I am continuously shocked by how differently the two papers function. The college newspaper is a leap away from the high school paper and likely only a step away from a professional paper (if you don’t consider the college paper professional). Here are the main glaring differences:
1. The content is as close to uncensored as you can get.
I remember in high school, I wanted to write about the high school physics department controversy, in which teachers were against the administration’s decision in making physics class more project based and less test dependent (due to the large amount of students complaining about low grades and lack of learning).
However when I brought the pitch up with my advisor, she was against the article, claiming it to be too sensitive an issue. The Duke Chronicle is encouraged to question administration, events, and decisions. Whether it is from the way the college handled a case of assault or if so many donations from one person is a good thing, the Duke Chronicle spends an enormous amount of effort digging at these cases. And isn’t that a paper’s purpose? To question? To reveal information that one might overlook? To get perspectives that do not always have a voice?
2. Gathering information for articles extends beyond googling online.
At the Chronicle, a minimum of three people have to be interviewed for an article. Due to the “unbiased” style of news reporting, the article has to be based purely on these sources that the reporter acquires rather than personal thoughts. Reaching out, setting up a meeting time, and interviewing three people requires extraordinary amounts of effort, especially with the article due in as little as two days (the Duke Chronicle publishes a hard copy daily, with the exceptions of weekends and Fridays). In high school, the maximum number of people that I interviewed was one person, if any.
3. The pain of AP (Associated Press) style.
And other strict requirements. No Oxford comma. Quotes get there own paragraphs. Make sure the quotes aren’t too long. If the person’s title is longer than five words, put it after the name. Always stick with the inverted triangle formula and the list goes on. I have never encountered something as self-fulfilling, painful, and yet soothing as these guidelines. For one, they make an news report extremely easy to write–it’s like filling out an outline without having to actually think about structure. The high school paper, in comparison, was rather structureless.
4. Deadlines and one on one copy editing.
My high school paper published once every two months. The Chronicle publishes daily with the exception of Friday through Sunday, in which it will still publish articles online. Articles have to be churned out rapidly and layout designers are in the office until late at night. And despite the strict deadlines, all writers still manage to go through their articles with a copy editor in depth. These editing meetings in the office were extremely helpful in teaching me the AP style formatting and cutting out my editorial voice.
On the other hand, the high school paper was always scrambling to get editing and layout done in time. Editing was subpar quality and editors never met with writers to tell them what was being changed.
5. The many different sections of the paper that manage to operate on their own.
Recess is the weekly part of the paper on arts, entertainment and music. The sports writers have their own spreads every day. There is a layout team, graphics team, and photography section. In fact, the photographers are flown out to games if necessary to capture images. There is also the technology department who is developing the Chronicle app and visual interactives. And finally, there are the editorial board and editorial columns. In other words, a section for nearly everything exists while in high school, it was more of a disorganized free-for-all.