By Lisa Heer
The Argonaut is a familiar sight on campus and around town. But how many of us know what it takes to produce this paper on a bi-weekly basis?
The 10-page Argonaut paper is published every Tuesday and Friday. And each publication has a myriad of challenges and deadlines, requiring students to be in tune to the campus and community life. Add a full load of student classes to those requirements—and it’s clear it takes some serious dedication to be a part of this paper.
“The students do the same news-gathering process as does any professional organization. They have established beats—areas of coverage—that they pay attention to,” said Argonaut advisor Shawn O’Neal, who cited administration, ASUI, police, and housing as a few specific areas. “Our students are incredibly organized and efficient.”
And they have to be, to create a professional-standard newspaper on their own.
“People do not always understand this is a true student newspaper. It’s not a class or a lab or a club and no ‘professional’ eyes see it before it goes out. Not mine and certainly none of the journalism professors. It’s 100 percent student-produced from the time a story idea is generated to the time you pick it up,” said O’Neal.
“We occasionally have people say the Argonaut isn’t a ‘real newspaper.’ I have a good sense of humor about it, but those people couldn’t be more wrong,” said O’Neal. “Our goal is to run the newsroom just like it’s done in the professional world, and I think our alums would tell you that when they graduate and need to earn a pay check, they feel like they’re ready to make it happen.”
One key member of the newsroom is this year’s Editor-in-Chief, Elizabeth Rudd. She oversees the entire production of the paper and helps focus the paper to be relevant to students and the university.
“We strive to be educational. I think for some of the students, this is the only paper they pick up. The faculty reads it too, so it’s good for them to stay informed,” said Rudd.
Beyond keeping people informed, the Argonaut plays an important role in the University system.
“We also act as a check and balance. The press’ role is to be a watchdog of the government, and the college is the same type of body. We check and balance with ASUI. We call them out on stuff. Right now we have good relations with them, but it hasn’t always been that way. They call us out too, so I think it’s a healthy relationship,” said Rudd.
Another crucial member of the staff is Managing and Opinion Editor, Elisa Eiguren. She describes herself as the “problem solver and go-between,” as she helps editors with issues and is second in command to Rudd. Eiguren’s involvement has provided her with beneficial insight for post-graduation, and she’s gained valuable experience in the newsroom.
“You can only learn so much in classes about journalism,” she said. “The Argonaut is a really practical way to apply the skills and knowledge you learn in class to a real-world environment.”
One aspect that is essential to that real-world environment is solid communication between staff members.
“All editors and reporters have to build a relationship outside of just a professional one. We have a really good repertoire among us,” said Eiguren. “It’s not always a big deal if a story is late, but reporters have to let the editors know. Sometimes we go later on deadline stories, like a piece on a Men’s basketball game. The reporters are writing the story at the game Thursday night, and then send it to the editors who do a quick read and throw it on the page.”
That communication is certainly important when the staff has roughly five hours to put together the paper before sending it off for publication. Stories are due at 3 p.m. on Sunday and Wednesday from the reporters to the editors. After going through editing, the stories are then placed in the production server so the designers can start their work.
This is where Production Manager Jens Olson comes in. Olson orchestrates the designers and illustrators to make a strong visual representation of the paper.
“Design has a big influence on what people read,” he said. “We can add influence or make stuff less prominent according to the design.” For example, featuring a story on the front page with a color photograph is likely to grab more attention when students pass by in the commons or on their way to a coffee shop.
“I’d say the challenge is getting cohesive design,” said Olson. “Everyone has a different idea about design and how they want the page to look.” Olson monitors the pages for consistent themes and creates standards for the design, while still trying to allowing his designers to have creative license.
When it comes to production night, Olson can be found in the newsroom with several other dedicated staff members during the final processing from 5p.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays.
“We editors live and breathe the Argonaut,” said Olson.
After the late night designing and printing and mass editing is finished, The Argonaut is sent to the Lewiston Morning Tribune to be published the next day. On Tuesday and Friday mornings, the papers are delivered by truck on palettes to the Moscow Daily News, where they arrive at 4 a.m. Olson and his roommate pick up the fresh Argonaut papers and have them delivered by 7 a.m.
And then all the hard work pays off—The Argonaut is ready to be received by the public, and the staff begins drafting the next issue.