Jul 10, 2014

Newsletter Redux

I made a newspaper. Well, technically it's a newsletter, but I still made it. Aided by my co-worker, and new friend, Kris, I took what was effectively an inter-departmental memo and, through the magic of Journalism, transformed it into a legitimate professional newsletter. I swear, I have no ego about my accomplishment! The process was quite interesting, let me explain.

Close to a month ago, I and a few of my work compatriots attended a dysfunctional department meeting. I learned two things from that meeting: 1) I should complain less about the perceived issues in my office. 2) The entire department was putting together a "newsletter" to showcase the available services to faculty and staff alike. I immediately went into "journalist mode." Several ideas for content about my office sprang to mind and I found myself delighted at the possibility of writing news even if it was just for others at my job. This delight was furthered when Kris approached me, saying that he had some ideas for content. A brother-in-arms, I thought. Someone who understands news writing and how awesome this will be!

Kris and I, along with Sarah aka Parker (she is our photographer so it fits), had a business lunch. Over homemade hummus and crackers (Thanks Parker!) we discussed strategy and content, What was worth printing? What could we leave out? Why doesn't Journalism believe in the Oxford Comma? With a plan in place, we began in earnest to create our content for the newsletter. We decided to do two stories that would require interviews, the rest was general filler. Kris did a "spotlight" piece on one of our co-workers while I did a feature story on our boss.

I did page layout on the wall.
We went about the task at hand with fervor. In a short time, our content was complete, then, disaster struck. Parker brought a hard copy of the "newsletter" to us. There was no formatting of any kind and it was obvious the various offices had cobbled some information together and emailed it off without a second thought. Kris put a voice to my thoughts saying, "This can't be the newsletter." We wondered who was in charge of editing the final product as well as who had put this "mock-up" together. After a minute of lamenting, I turned to Kris and said, "We're going to have to do this ourselves. We need to take this and do it properly or it won't happen." Kris nodded in agreement.

Kris and I set to work on our new, grander scheme. We tasked Parker with taking photographs  of every staff member in the department, we figured out where and how to add content to extend the newsletter. We created a streamlined layout and formatting for the newsletter. It was difficult because each office within the department had different font sizes and font types. We spent a lot of time trying to line up text boxes and graphics to minimize empty space on each page. What made the process interesting is that we worked with a program that isn't normally used to design newspaper-style documents. Yet, despite that drawback, Kris and I found ways to achieve the look we wanted.

When we presented a fully edited copy to the department head, he was blown away by our production value. Whatever he expected, we went above and beyond it. That feeling is bittersweet.

Kris and I debate layout
I'm glad that I was able to impress people, but I also feel that the fact that I impressed them means they did not expect much. My degree is in Journalism, Kris was Journalism undergrad until he switched. Sarah used to be a professional photographer. Between the three of us, we have the skill sets to make something very good. I don't think it should have come as such a shock that we could create something of such high quality.

The newsletter was "put to bed" today (that's a Journalism term for finished/gone to print). I'm happy with the product because it needed very little proofing from the Marketing Department and despite some meddling, the content on the page is exactly what we planned. I hope this is the start of a new opportunity at my job. I can't wait to see the printed product...

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