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June 8, 2011

June issue: changing of the guard

by Claire Sleigh, Print Managing Sports Editor, Ombudsman and Design Team
The observant reader might notice recent updates in our staff box. Silver Chips’s June issue is always entirely edited, written and managed by juniors. In the fall, we will formally begin our managing editor positions and work with a new group of junior staffers. Here is where we hope to take the paper next year.
Ombudsman Claire Sleigh Tolu Omokehinde
Ombudsman Claire Sleigh

Last year’s paper saw huge improvements both in the quality of the writing and in more minute details. This was partly because two years ago was a bit of an off year – Silver Chips did not receive the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s highest honor, the Gold Crown award, or the National Scholastic Press Association Pacemaker award. Silver Chips has almost always been the perennial winner of both. Starting from this difference in quality and staff, the outgoing senior class made huge improvements at a rate that next year’s paper can only try to emulate. It will be a challenge for the rising editorial staff to continue the same level and quantity of improvements.

The improvements we made this year were both small and large; the senior editors improved the aesthetic of the paper by stressing photo quality and creativity of layout, made stories more readable by holding seminars on journalistic grammar rules and cutlines, brought staffers together (an issue in the ’09-10 staff) and made stories more accessible to students.

That being said, there are still lots of things that Silver Chips can polish.

Through this year, the paper has had issues with typos, which damages our professionalism. We can also work on making our news and op-ed sections relevant and interesting to all Blazers and increasing the quality of the Spanish page. We have already taken both short-term and long-term measures to improve these critical aspects of Silver Chips.

Some of these changes will happen quickly: our promising copy editor Paul B. Ellis will read and edit all text during production for the all-too common small grammar and spelling mistakes that take so much away from the quality of our stories.

On the other hand, making every issue and story relevant to a large percentage of the school is a feat that generations of staffs struggled with. The main problem is that the staff of the paper does not have the same mix of races, income level and educational experiences as the broader Blair community. The up-and-coming junior staff, while they will be a huge asset to the paper, is no more diverse than any of our previous staffers. That being said, there are other actions we can take to make the stories diverse even if we aren’t. We hope to reinstate an old policy of “storming the SAC” for story ideas, and will be more mindful of having a broad base of stories in the future.

Our editors have a couple of key ideas for how to improve the paper next year, but many of these are not based on what you, the Blair community, want to see in your paper. With a new year starting, we are in the optimal position to make the big-picture changes that will increase the professionalism and readership of the paper and make us deserving of the highest national and state honors.

Want to help the paper improve next year? E-mail the ombudsman queries, comments or suggestions at clairesleigh94@gmail.com.



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