Leading a newsroom of powerful storytellers

It was two weeks ago when The Temple News’ weekly production was interrupted.

On a Monday night at 11 p.m., I was working with my news team to perfect our stories before we published them on Tuesday morning. We worked hard to ensure every piece of content we sent to the printer that night was bulletproof — no errors, no misspellings, not even a misplaced comma. We also ate pistachios.

Suddenly, our peaceful hard work was interrupted. I watched my newsroom break out into a full-blown pistachio shell fight. Our news team threw shells at our photo team, often missing and hitting the features team. On either side of the room, our sports and copy editors laughed.

I laughed along with them, despite knowing every thrown pistachio shell was one I would have to clean up later, and every passing minute meant another I wouldn’t sleep that night. I was used to it. After all, it was our second-to-last issue of the year, and as the editor-in-chief of The Temple News, you forgo sleeping on Monday nights the second you accept the position.

Watching my coworkers, I found myself reflecting on my year leading our university’s student newspaper. I remembered all four years of college, each of which I spent as a dedicated reporter and editor at The Temple News.

When I look back, I remember the stories. My sophomore year, I sat down with a Temple employee who had been sentenced to life in prison. Then as a senior, I met mothers, friends and significant others of students who had died during their time at Temple.

I also learned how to tell my own stories — I came out as queer in The Temple News, and I later mourned the death of the LGBTQ icon who helped me do it.

I watched my coworkers tell similarly powerful stories. This year, The Temple News reported on the loss of an iconic North Philadelphia church to a fire. We highlighted the lack of sexual assault resources at Temple’s Japan campus. We also sounded off on important issues, like the proposed on-campus stadium and controversies in Greek life.

When I remember these stories, it’s impossible not to remember my coworkers. This academic year, I can tell you exactly what you’d see walking into our newsroom on a Monday morning: our design team, with a handful of 24-ounce coffees, stressed out because InDesign just crashed again.

Our photo editors, cracking jokes and praising the Sixers. Our features editors, digging for the nitty-gritty details about some weird art exhibit in Fishtown. And our opinion editor, sitting beside them with a bowl always full of candy for when times got tough.

Sports and news editors were across the aisle, taping reminders to their cubicle walls, calling administrators and showing each other memes.

The multimedia editors toiled away in their private office — often freezing cold — and the members of our senior staff ate pretzels with hummus and blasted ‘80s pop music.

There were the copy editors, who fact-checked so many words over the course of one year that their brains must have grown 12 times bigger in 10 months. Across from them sat our faculty adviser — always ready with the advice I needed to hear (and probably looking at pictures of his dog).

I know my staff about as well as I know anyone — it gets that way when you spend just about every day with the same group of people, all of whom share the same goal: telling the stories that matter to the Temple community.

The truth is, by the end of the year, these people have become much more than just my staff. They’re lifelong friends. I have never met a more dedicated, sharp group of student journalists, and I’m excited to watch them continue to grow in the future.

I am proud of the stories we’ve told, and I’m proud of the 22-person staff that made them happen.

And if I had to pick up a few pistachio shells along the way, it was well worth it.

Michaela Winberg
can be reached at michaela.winberg@temple.edu Or you can follow Michaela on Twitter @mwinberg_ Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

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