The new Editor-in-chief of the Williams Record is Danny Jin, supported by new Managing Editors Nicholas Goldrosen and Jane Petersen. How might they turn the Record into a first class college newspaper?
First, have a clear goal. Williams, as a smaller college, will never be able to support a daily paper like The Harvard Crimson or the Yale Daily News. But there is no reason why individual articles in the Record shouldn’t be just as good as those in other college papers. Right now, they are far, far worse.
Second, institute beats for individual reporters/teams. The Crimson and YDN — like every (?) professional paper — use “beats,” defined areas of focus for a given reporter. The Record should do the same. Admissions would be one beat, Administration another. Others might include the Endowment, Local News, Student Organizations and Faculty. With more reporters, we might add beats for each individual class. The Arts and Sports reporters at the Record already do a reasonable job, not least because, over time, they develop expertise in their topics. The same model should apply elsewhere.
Third, recruit more students. To be fair, the Record does try to recruit. But, if Jin/Goldrosen/Petersen want to turn it into a first class paper, they need to try harder, not least by appealing to students self-interest. The pitch is:
So, you want to go into finance? Cool! How are you going to learn about the finance world? How are you going to demonstrate your expertise to future employers? Simple! Become a reporter for the Record and write (almost) every week about the endowment. This will force you to become an expert on the Williams endowment specifically and on college endowments, and institutional investing, in general. Even better: After a few years, you will have a collection of articles to catch the interest of Wall Street firms.
The same sort of pitch applies in other areas:
So, you want to go into consulting/business? Cool! How are you going to learn about the business world? How are you going to demonstrate your expertise to future employers? Simple! Become a reporter for the Record and write (almost) every week about the Williams budget. This will force you to become an expert on Williams spending specifically and on the management of elite colleges, and other large organizations, in general. Even better: After a few years, you will have a collection of articles to catch the interest of consulting firms.
Nothing impresses a potential employer more than demonstrated expertise on a real world topic, gained outside of class. A similar pitch could be given to students with other interests.
Fourth, annualize the coverage. The yearly rhythms of the College provide a simple structure around which to organize coverage. Each year, there should be an article about endowment returns, each of the 4 trustee meetings, early admissions, regular admissions, First Days, Claiming Williams and so on. This might appear repetitive, but Williams, like all multi-century institutions, has a heartbeat, one which can be used to structure your reporting. An annualized coverage also allows for the development, over time, of real expertise. If you write about endowment returns each year then, eventually, you will start to ask some hard questions.
Fifth, talk to critics. The single most embarrassing thing about today’s Record is that it almost never talks to critics of the College. (Compare that behavior to how the Crimson and the YDN operate.) Many articles are simple rehashings of Williams press releases.
The Record could be a great paper. Will Danny Jin make it so?