Four Lessons from a Red Pen

Emma Cummings-Krueger
Class of: 

After four years on the St. Lawrence student newspaper staff, I now have something important in common with Liam Neeson: a very particular set of skills.

Writing, editing, designing and promoting The Hill News has exposed me to nearly every facet of weekly newspaper production. As a bushytailed freshman, I joined the newspaper as a staff writer, producing articles every week and watching them miraculously turn up in the weekly print issue. I had no idea how many student-run tasks were completed behind-the-scenes to fill the stacks each Friday.

Now, as the newspaper’s Editor in Chief, I watch these processes unfold every day in our office. My amazing team ties up loose ends I never knew existed. The groups of college students who voluntarily proofread articles or battle a crashing Adobe design program go widely unnoticed on campus, but these behind-the-scenes heroes are quietly building essential skills for their futures.

Many of the jobs I’ve performed while on staff aren’t necessarily the go-to expectation of news reporting. Still, they are tasks that we need completed every week. Learning to work as a team on these projects has shown me the true value of student clubs at a school that already highlights liberal arts in education.

As that freshman writer, I never knew I needed to train my brain in this problem-solving way. Now, with a list of odd jobs speckling my résumé, I feel more prepared for my graduation in May than I ever imagined I could from simply joining a college club.

Looking back, I don’t remember learning these skills; it all just seemed like part of the job. I just remember needing them on The Hill, in my classes and everyday life. Now, I can’t imagine St. Lawrence without them. Below, catch up on why these unorthodox jobs are important to us on The Hill News and why they have taught me so much.

  1. Copyediting and proofreading

    Many students don’t realize that copyediting is an entry-level position on The Hill staff; no experience or prior participation is required. People with a passion for grammar and syntax are difficult people to find, and every one of them is welcome in the newsroom. Without these editing stars, comma splices would run rampant. Learning how to edit is one of the best skills I’ve gained as an English major.
  2. Graphic design for layout

    While students produce virtually all of our written content, the design of each printed issue also relies on college kids. Since joining the editorial staff my freshman year, I’ve learned to use Adobe applications like Photoshop and InDesign. Using the fancy computer programs in our office, I now have a pretty solid handle on infographic and ad design. Graphics add a lot to plain text blocks, and learning how to make them is an invaluable skill on layout nights.
  3. Photography

    Photos, even in newspapers, are worth a thousand words. We use student-produced pictures to grab attention on our front page, illustrate campus news and generally make our paper more reader-friendly. Student photographers capture big moments in hockey games, introduce new faculty members by face and show state-of-the-art building renovations in progress. Adding a visual to my stories have given them more depth, and helped my writing to appeal to a wider audience.
  4. Interviewing and Research

    For most articles, writers aim to collect quotes and information from sources on campus and around town. Learning to approach a Canton police officer or email a Dean for an interview has been a hugely beneficial skill that I’ve honed on The Hill. Interacting with so many important people has given me more confidence as a reporter, while also connecting me with several unique characters. Waving hello to faculty members and students I’ve met through interviews is a great way to feel even more at home on campus. Next year, as I move beyond campus into a career, I’m confident that these connections, and the skills that helped me form them, will continue to grow.