The new Editor-in-chief of the Williams Record is Samuel Wolf, supported by new Managing Editors Jeongyoon Han and Rebecca Tauber. 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 couldn’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 on their topics. The same model should apply elsewhere.

Third, recruit more students. To be fair, the Record does try to recruit. But, if the new leadership wants 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.

Consider this article about former President Morty Schapiro, this article about outgoing Vice President for Campus Life Steve Klass and this article about outgoing Dean of the Faculty Denise Buell. Not a single critic is quoted. (And the last two articles were written by then-editor-in-chief Goldrosen!) I suspect that not a single critic was even spoken with. The student reporters for my local middle school are more serious.

Senior administrators always have critics. It is simply pathetic for a newspaper “reporter” — and I use the term loosely — to only discuss one side of the story. Morty Schapiro is wonderful! Yeah! But to write an entire article without even mentioning (or knowing about?) Neighborhood Housing — the biggest controversy of Morty’s era and the biggest failure in administration policy in 20 years — is embarrassing.

The Record could be a great paper. Will Samuel Wolf make it so?

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