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Four Years at the Mount

Producing the Emmitsburg News-Journal

September 2014

With each passing year, the Four Years at the Mount section evolves as students graduate, move up to leadership roles within the newspaper, or just begin their time at the Mount. As we start our search for the next freshman writer, we asked each of our current writers to take a unique approach to writing about the process that lies ahead. Since Leeanne will no longer be our freshman writer as she moves to her sophomore year at the Mount, she reflected on the experiences she has had throughout the past year, what she has learned, and what the new writer will gain from the position. Lydia wrote a creative piece reflecting on the process of hiring a new writer and the opportunities that lie ahead for the writer. As our senior columnist, Kyle discussed the inner workings of the Emmitsburg News-Journal to show what the new writer will learn from holding this position and the leadership opportunities they will encounter as a result.

A learning experience

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

In just a few weeks I will no longer be the "freshman writer" for this column. The transition may seem simple and natural to our readers; a new year comes so we all move up a year and you gain a new voice. For some reason itís not been easy for me to accept. To think that I will be a sophomore means a lot of things. It means that I might actually have to decide what I want to do with my life, I might have more than a few problems managing my time, and I might have classes that challenge me to learn more than I think is possibleóokay, I definitely will. I also know that it means that I will get to continue to grow in my faith and friendships, and scholastically, in my classes and as a writer for this paper.

As I look forward to writing my twelfth article and starting my second year on the staff, I canít help but reflect on my first year. I will admit, there were articles that went more smoothly than others. There were some that were worked on for weeks but still were never right until Kyle fixed them. There were also some that made me so incredibly happy to write that it took only a couple of hours from start to finish. Then there were the ones that I just didnít know what to do with, and had to email Kathryn for ideas. Through all of these articles, I think I learned a little.

For the articles that just didnít seem right until my editor looked at them, I learned that teamwork really is vital in any production because our eyes see differently and we hear different things when we read the same words. I learned why there is an editing process, because even if I spent days on one article, it probably still wouldnít be perfect. I also began to understand why there are so many people who look over every single thing that goes into the paper as we caught the very rare typo. It began to make sense why one person canít simply catch all mistakes and fix everything; it takes a team of people with different views to work from every angle. These articles that didnít fall together perfectly may have been frustrating, but it was from these that I learned the most.

I learned that sometimes my first idea isnít as great as I think it is, and not everything works on paper. I learnedówell Iím still learningóthat organization helps to keep a clear head and thoughts, although I havenít mastered this yet. I learned that breaks are necessary and that itís okay to start articles closer to when theyíre assigned than to when theyíre due. I learned that writing for the paper is similar to living life because things donít always work out and some things take more time than others. Sometimes it takes two, three, or even four attempts for anything to make sense, and some of the best work comes from a long and difficult process. Also I found that sometimes a bowl of chocolate ice cream is really all you need.

For the articles that just clicked and the ones that were so much fun from start to finish, I learned that you donít learn much if you donít have any problems. From these I simply learned to appreciate the times where things just fall together, because it doesnít always work that way. From my favorite article, and one that also went smoothly, I learned that interviewing someone is perhaps one of the most interesting things one can do. To sit down with someone and simply be immersed in their past, their thoughts and opinions, their values, and their lifestyle, is fascinating. This also taught me that writing down someone elseís thoughts can be much more fun than writing down my own because it becomes a sort of story, instead of me just ranting about what I think and how I feel. These articles reminded me why I love to write and why I need to appreciate it more.

Each article I wrote, each article that I read, and each staff meeting taught me a little more, whether it be about my own writing, what good writing looks like, or the process of the paper production. I am happy to say that I spent my first year on the paper learning and I hope to spend the next few doing the same. While I continue to learn and grow, I want to welcome our new freshman writer with the same advice. To use each second as a learning experience because as a beginner, you will see growth each time you sit down to write. Everything I learned was positive and helped me grow in not just journalistic writing, but all sorts of writing that translated into my classes and everyday life. If you keep an open mind and realize that not every article may be comfortable, but these are the ones that will teach you the most. Writing for this paper will teach you about yourself by forcing you to formulate real thoughts and put them onto paper.

It will teach you about how far youíve come as a writer as you watch even the most difficult topics get a little easier to handle. It will also show you how far youíve come as a person. When youíre moving on to your sophomore year and are able to go back and look at your very first articles, you will see in your own writing where your thoughts were and how youíve matured and grown. It will show you what you like, what you donít like, and how to enjoy both. You will get to learn from the best people around and see how a newspaper can really effect and bring together a community. And most importantly, you will learn as I did that without passion, even the best writerís work will fall flat. So love what you do. Love the process. Love to write and share with Emmitsburg. Love the opportunity to reflect on your experiences, and it will show.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary


The freshman writer

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

It was only a month or so ago that Gabby had moved into her new home at Mount St. Mary's University. She was a freshman and was still trying to get settled into college life. Gabby wasnít quite sure what career she wanted to pursue or where she will be in ten years, but she believed that when the time is right she will figure it all out. Gabby came into college only knowing a few people. She had joined a few clubs and was really starting to find her passions, but something was missing. Until one weekday, late in the evening, she was checking her email and she saw something that caught her eye.

One of the multiple emails she received that day detailed a newspaper in the local community looking for a freshman writer for a column called "Four Years at the Mount." Gabby was extremely interested but thought that she might not be good enough to fill the position. She sat at her desk and rocked back and forth in her chair as she contemplated. She could not make up her mind. "Typical," she thought to herself, knowing she was indecisive nearly every minute of her day. "Just do it," she convinced herself. "I believe in you." And with that, Gabby moved the mouse of her computer to the top right and hit the reply button. She then wroteÖ

Dear Writers of the Emmitsburg News Journal,

My name is Gabby Peterson and I am a freshman here at the Mount. I am very interested in learning more about becoming the freshman writer for the column entitled, "Four Years at the Mount." I have always loved to write and find it is a great way to express myself. I think that I could be a great addition to your team and would love to have your consideration. I have attached a sample of my writing that I wrote recently for one of my classes. Please let me know if you need anything else in addition. Thank you so much!

"There," she thought. "I think that sounds good." Yet, she stared at the page again and again making sure she did not make any silly errors. After moments of hesitation, Gabby finally found the courage to hit send.

At first she thought, "What have I done?" Gabby did not have much confidence in herself or in her writing. She believed that her writings were a true reflection of her and clearly projected her as a young woman. Gabby was afraid to be vulnerable and was nervous about letting others into her life by letting them read what she had written from the heart. She even had trouble handing in her papers in high school for fear that her teachers were going to judge her or what she wrote about. However, this fear was always ridiculous because her teachers applauded her on many occasions and she was always told that writing was her strongest subject. Gabby was just still learning to believe in herself and to be confident in her talents.

A few days passed without an email response to Gabbyís interest in writing for the paper. Gabby was anxious but tried to not think about it. Then an email response came. Gabby eagerly opened it and read its contents.

Dear Gabby,

Thank you for your email and for your interest in writing for the Emmitsburg News-Journal. Our staff has read your sample piece and has decided to consider you for the position. We would like you to come to our next meeting to discuss the possibility. We will be meeting on Monday night at eight oíclock in the library. Please let me know if this works within your schedule. Thank you and hope to see you soon!

"Wow!" Gabby said out loud as a smile spread across her face. She could not contain her excitement.

Monday rolled around and Gabby could not wait to meet the staff members. She headed to the library and walked in before realizing that she had no idea who she was supposed to be meeting or where they would be sitting. Gabby stood in the front of the library for a few moments wondering what to do.

"Hi, are you Gabby?" she heard a voice beside her say as she turned and saw a young woman with dark brown hair approach her and smile.

"Yes, are you with the Emmitsburg News-Journal?" Gabby responded, glad she did not have to stand alone any longer.

"Yes I am. My name is Kathryn. Would you like to come and sit with us? We are just waiting for a few more people."

Gabby smiled and said, "Sure!" before heading over to the table and taking a seat.

The full staff from the Mount began to appear and each took a seat at the table. Everyone was talking, laughing and eager to discuss the previous monthís edition before brainstorming ideas for the next monthís theme. At the head of the table sat a man named Mike who spoke with excitement about animals and history while also quizzing the rest of the staff as if they were all playing trivia. He spoke to Gabby in between questions of Emmitsburg history and made sure that she was up for the position. Mike made sure Gabby was planning on sticking around at the Mount for all four years and told her that he was glad to have her as part of the team. He mentioned that he had really liked the sample piece she submitted, and Gabbyís smile could not have been larger.

As the meeting was ending, Gabby got to hear what the theme would be for her first piece in the Emmitsburg News-Journal and her mind flooded with ideas. She could not wait to get started and see her name and article in print for the first time.

Before each staff member headed back to their residence building, they all hiked over to a parking lot that had only one little, red car in it. Mike opened up the trunk and handed each staff member a bundle of newspapers.

Gabby reached out and held her stack with her arms wrapped around it. Each person decided which building they were going to take their stack to and then shouted goodbyes to each other as they walked in different directions.

"We will be in contact," Kathryn turned to Gabby and said. "I am so excited to have you as part of our team!"

"I am so glad to be here. I am really looking forward to working with you all!" Gabby responded earnestly. And with that, she headed off to deliver her stack of newspapers. Her feet could barely keep from running as she eagerly desired to get back to her dorm room and call her mother to tell her the good news. As Gabby swung open the door to her residence hall and plopped the stack of newspapers onto the front desk, she thought about all the opportunities this new position was to bring. That little thing that seemed to be missing a week or so ago was not missing anymore. Gabby had been given the chance to write for the community newspaper and she was beyond thrilled. She could not wait to grab her computer and let her fingers type the words her heart and mind wanted to say.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen


The importance of editing

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

Throughout the years Iíve held more than a few positions around the wonderful world of the Mount St. Maryís campus. Iíve been blessed with the chance to be a leader and role model among our student communities as a Resident Assistant. I was able to flex my oratorical skills as the master of ceremonies for last yearís SPARC festival, and last but certainly not least by any stretch of the imagination, Iíve been a writer for the Emmitsburg News-Journal. During these past few months, that role has been altered slightly and Iíve been fortunate to be able to move from working solely on my own article to helping other writers and the paper as a whole. It has certainly been an interesting path getting here, one that has taught me a great deal about what it takes to marry responsibility and creativity. While it is my normal modus operendi to weave everything together into a single story, I thought that in keeping with the precise nature of the job, weíd do a simple list of lessons learned.

1. What you put in is what you get out.

After receiving a draft of the paper during my first month as an editor, the first thing I did was isolate myself from every distraction, pull out my laptop, and get to work. After nine hours I was finally able to send the finished product off to my editors (and thus the grammatical cycle of life goes on, sans Lion King music). While my finished product was far from perfect, it let me learn a lot about how our paper goes about the arduous task of editing the collective works of a thriving town and university. Most importantly, I was able to take pride in the work that I had done and the process I had used to accomplish my task.

This lesson alone is worth a considerable amount more than several dozen of my paychecks combined. Taking pride in the work you do is often as rewarding, if not more so, than the exact work that you do. Itís that attitude that lets you transform the mistakes you make into valuable lessons and then translate those lessons into success.

2. Little strokes fell mighty oaks.

Speaking of the collective works of an entire town, have you ever taken a look at the Emmitsburg News-Journal? I mean really sat down and thought about the size font we use, the spacing between the lines of text, and the sheer number of pages. The truth is that the Emmitsburg News-Journal is an incredibly comprehensive newspaper, so much so that no one or two dedicated editors could do it all in the time that is required. Luckily for us, we have four dedicated editors and a surefire strategy. First, editors are split into two teams; next the paper is split into halves with each team member taking a section, switching halves once a revised version of the paper is received. The result is a fully realized grammatical clean sweep.

Although Iím positive you are all enjoying this scintillating discussion of publishing tactics, the truth is that this does have a pretty distinct lesson in the real world. In life we face some incredibly daunting tasks. No matter who you are, Iím sure you face some serious tasks. Whether itís balancing your job and the family of small children you have, or trying to strike a perfect dichotomy between life as a student and life as a normal person. Regardless of the job you have to do, or its size, almost anything in life can be broken up into smaller sections. These easy to complete segments donít feel like much (and in truth they might not be), but after a period of time they add up to form something significant.

3. Itís alright to get some air.

One of the most important things a professional athlete will tell you is the effect that fatigue has on their performance. You can have the most muscles and the best form, but without any sort of endurance youíll never last long enough to finish the race. Despite the fact that weíre not winning gold medalsóalthough I continue to lobby for professional typing to be put into the summer Olympicsóthe same can be said for editors. After a while our brains get tired. Our eyes start to strain a little bit and things like, "Is that movie title going to get italicized or put in quotations?" or, "Can I underline this?" or my favorite, "What if I just underline the entire paragraph?" start running through our heads. When moments like this arise, we take a much needed break to grab something eat, stretch our legs and talk to someone (or something) other than a page for a little bit. Then, once our appetites for food and human conversation are sated, we can come back to editing, confident with the knowledge that no, underlining an entire paragraph is not a good plan.

The same holds true for real life. No one mentions this, but itís easy to get tired. In a world dominated by machines and products marketed for our convenience, there is somehow less time to do everything. In this world, taking a breather can seem counterintuitive, but believe me when I say that sometimes what you need to keep working like a maniac is five minutes of free breathing time.

4. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

At the end of the day, there is nothing quite like seeing your finished product go to press. One of the incredible parts of working in journalism is that once youíre finished and something has officially been completed, you actually get to see and share the physical result of your work with other people. The amazing thing is that you get to lug around the stacks of paper. To say that you should not be able to take a step back and truly appreciate what youíve made is to say that your work comes from nothing. Seriously folks, enjoy your work and take the time to appreciate the end result.

At the end of the day, the importance of editing is less about the actual work that is done on the page and more about the lessons that you can glean from it. Whether youíre writing or editing, working or relaxing, I hope you take the time to appreciate and learn from the tasks you perform every day. And most importantly, take some time for a good piece of writing. Iím Kyle Ott. Wonít you sit and read for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott

Read Past Editions of Four Years at the Mount