By Aretha Pereira
Recently, I was given the opportunity to interview Zaneta Pereira, a student who wrote for our very own the Pawprint in high school, and made her way up to being Editor in Chief for the The Los Angeles Loyolan, the student media organization at Loyola Marymount University in LA. I asked her a couple of questions pertaining to what college journalism is truly like, and her views about the topic as a career, the challenges she found, and how it is that she became Editor In Chief herself. Here are her answers:
- How did you find college journalism and high school journalism different?
College journalism and high school journalism for me were incredibly different. I wrote for the Pawprint at DAA when I was a sophomore, but at that time the paper had just recently been reinstated after not happening for a couple of years. Since it was our first year back, I think we only put out about three issues in the semester and the pace and intensity of the operation was very different since I would have weeks to write and edit an article. In comparison, my college newspaper was published twice a week in print and daily online and so I would often only have a few hours to write and edit articles. It was a much faster paced job where we worked long hours in the office (5 pm – midnight) on production days and where I had to fit writing and reporting around my studies instead of it being a part of them.
- What made you want to go into journalism?
I’ve always enjoyed writing and, as a psychology student, I find people and their experiences really interesting, so journalism was an obvious way to incorporate both of those interests. Also, I needed a student job and I knew that working for a college news organization would be a good way to earn money and challenge myself intellectually and creatively which was much more attractive to me than working a receptionist or mail room job.
- How did you work your way up to Editor in Chief? Was it difficult?
I started on my college paper as an intern my freshman year and had worked my way to Editor in Chief by the Spring of my junior year. I wouldn’t say the process was difficult, it was more about accepting challenges and being willing to take on more responsibility incrementally. The nature of college journalism is that there’s a high attrition rate with people dropping out all the time for various reasons like not being able to handle the workload with school, becoming more involved with another organization, transferring schools, studying abroad, or simply just graduating. As a result, especially in a smaller staff like ours (we had around 60 employees) there was always opportunities to move up and try new things. So I really got to the EIC position by being excited about new positions and willing to jump around and fill the holes that would emerge on staff such as when our News Editor wanted to switch to Life + Arts and I moved up my freshman year from intern to News Editor. It was a pretty big jump, but I was excited about it and happy to dive in fully to the additional responsibility and I put a lot of effort into doing a good job so that it was then easy for me to move up the chain to Managing Editor and then Editor in Chief.
- What are your thoughts on journalism as a job? What did you find challenging?
I think journalism is a career that requires a lot of passion because it is really demanding. In today’s world where digital media is key, news organizations need to produce more content on a tighter deadlines than ever before. And more than just writing articles, to be a successful journalist today I think you really need to be able to use social media and multimedia effectively. So it’s a lot of work and if it’s not something you really care about I think it’s easy to get burned out on the relentless pace and intensity of the job. I definitely found it challenging, especially alongside being a full-time student, to ensure that I was putting in the time and effort not just to get things done and get articles written but to be strategic about my work, try new things, launch new projects and push the boundaries.
- Do you get to pick every topic you write about? How do you assign articles to other?
Nope! When I was starting out, my section editor would assign me articles and about 80% of the time that’s what I would write. I had the opportunity to pitch ideas at our staff meetings and I often did get to write stories I’d pitched but ultimately it was the section editor who decided what I would write. Once I was in the section editor and executive editorial board positions though, I had much more freedom to choose my own assignments. Sometimes this meant pitching and writing an article I’d thought up completely by myself and other times it just meant having first pick of the articles that would need to be in an upcoming issue. Of course it also meant that sometimes when a really big or tricky story came up, as a section editor or EIC I had to take the responsibility of working on it. In terms of assigning articles, I would generate ideas at our weekly staff meetings and bi-weekly section editor meetings based on information I’d been sent from the wider university community, ideas people pitched, events on the university calendar, recommendations from our adviser and areas of interest. I would then assign articles based on my knowledge of my section staff’s interests, skills and availability – some people had a better political background, others were more skilled at writing features, some were more free to cover events.
If you’re interested in reading more about Zaneta Pereira, you can read more articles on her work here and here. Additionally, if you would like to read any of her articles from the Loyolan, you can take a look at them right here.