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What it’s Really Like to Work on the College Newspaper

Anyone who knows me well knows that writing and editing for Fifteen Minutes, the magazine board of The Harvard Crimson, has been one of the most important elements of my college experience. I came to Harvard in part because of The Crimson’s reputation; I knew that, if I wanted to pursue journalism in college, there was no better place to do so. I “comped” the fall of my freshman year (the semester-long learning process after which you get elected to the staff) – I was bright-eyed, eager, and ready to learn. I’d been an Editor-in-Chief of my small high school newspaper, but The Crimson was like nothing I’d ever seen. I can still remember going to their Open House; I was amazed at how big the building was (it’s beautiful, brick, has three stories, and is situated right in Harvard Square), how many people were involved, and the paper’s circulation (the website gets millions of hits a month).

Now, as a junior, I’m one of two Magazine Chairs (essentially Editors-in-Chief of the magazine). So far, the experience has been intense, fast-paced, challenging, and more rewarding than anything I’ve ever done. My Co-Chair, Maia, and I are in charge of coordinating 10 editors and 20+ writers in producing a print magazine every week. What could be more hands on than that? We’ve already experienced our fair share of crises (including staying at the building until 5 a.m. one night trying to get our printers to work), and also reveled in our fair share of joys (seeing our writers’ articles on The Crimson’s “Most Read” list). But before I came, I had tons of questions swimming in my mind. What is it really like to work at the college paper?

 

1. It feels like the real deal.

Writing for a daily newspaper is going to be intense, no matter what. Most college newspapers function like real businesses – they’re financially independent and are run entirely by students. The Crimson, for example, moves over $1 million a year. That’s right – undergraduates are in charge of that. The responsibility of producing a daily paper, getting the money to print it, and organizing a 500+ organization is all very real. Working at a paper, I think, instills a sense of responsibility and pride for writers, editors, business associates, etc. because it’s essentially a professional business.

 

2. Not everyone did it in high school.

But just because the paper can be intense doesn’t mean it’s only for those who were editors-in-chief of their high school paper. A lot of people decide to comp The Crimson their freshman year to meet people or just try something new. There’s a lot to be said for having an extracurricular outlet of some kind. The great thing about writing for newspapers is that generally you can dedicate yourself to it a lot or a little – it’s up to you. So if writing, editing, photographing, working on tech, or handling the business side of things sounds even a teensy bit interesting to you, show up at an open house or get more information. You won’t regret it.

 

3. It’s not all work.

In addition to being locusts of passionate, smart people, college newspapers are a great place to bond with people you wouldn’t otherwise have met. The magazine is like a second family to me – we spend so much time together working that it’s actually pretty remarkable that we want to hang out outside of meetings and production. We organize socials on the weekend (last week it was a group viewing of The Bachelor), and eat dinners together in the d-halls. Most people on The Crimson are very different than my other friends, and I feel so lucky to have met them – if you need a fresh breath of social air, definitely consider joining.

 

4. Depending on the school, you can get paid.

The Harvard Crimson has an amazing financial aid program – the paper will pay reporters for up to 10 hours of work a week. This scheme makes it viable for students who need term-time jobs to write. When I was touring other schools, I was pretty surprised that a lot of the newspapers had financial aid programs or paid their writers. 

 

5. It’s one of the most rewarding things you can do at college.

Writing for a college paper makes you appreciate your college so much more. It allows you to go to events you wouldn’t have otherwise, speak to a myriad of students and professors, and teaches you real-world writing, thinking, and business skills. For me, being a Crimson editor has completely changed my life; it is my life. Before college, I didn’t know it was humanly possible to be so invested in an extracurricular, and now I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I look back on my college years, Fifteen Minutes will probably be one of the first things my mind will land on – and it’s something that will always make me smile, even at 5 a.m. in the newsroom.

 


This was our first issue of 2016 - a themed travel issue, in which our writers wrote about their experiences near and far!
Above: This was our first issue of 2016 - a themed travel issue, in which our writers wrote about their experiences near and far!


This was a cover story I wrote for Fifteen Minutes about body image at Harvard.
Above: This was a cover story I wrote for Fifteen Minutes about body image at Harvard.


This is a picture of The Crimson building, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Above: This is a picture of The Crimson building, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Maia and me in the Sanctum, sitting at the special Crimson throne.
Above: Maia and me in the Sanctum, sitting at the special Crimson throne.

 

 

About the author

Hey there! My name’s Lena Felton, and I’m a freshman living in Canaday. I’m originally from Marin County, CA, which is right outside of San Francisco. I’m not completely sure yet what I’ll... View full profile

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