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Three Days in New York

From Spartanburg to the Big Apple: Old Gold and Black editors share experiences from New York Times workshop.

Each year the New York Times invites 50 colleges to send two representatives to its Student News Editors Workshop to learn more about journalism from New York Times editors and reporters. The conference allows student editors to share ideas and concerns with their peers while granting them insight into how the industry works.

Old Gold and Black editors Addie Lawrence ’16 and Elaine Best ’16 attended the workshop, held in the Times’ New York City headquarters, and returned to Wofford with adventures to share, advice to impart and one more story to write.

New York, New York
Editors invited to conference — thoughts before

Addie: Being invited to the New York Times is every journalist’s dream. It’s a huge name, a staple of the newspaper industry and an innovator in the field. Upon receiving the invitation, we jumped at the opportunity to learn from a top institution of journalists with students from across the country.

Elaine: As a small college newspaper in a big collegiate journalism pond, we planned to gather as much advice as we could. Since there are no journalism majors at Wofford, the workshop was the perfect opportunity to gain even more skills we could pass on to the current staff.

A journey begins
Editors arrive in the Big Apple

A: After a canceled flight, a long delay and some quick maneuvering on the Delta app, I managed to arrive in New York City around midnight the night before the conference. I shuffled into a taxi — a quintessential New York experience — and watched the skyscrapers blossom into the horizon as I crossed into Manhattan. The city was marvelously alive with cars and people bustling on the bigger streets. It felt like a place of constant happenings, with news always around the corner.

E: When I first arrived, the Big Apple felt rotten. Since Addie’s flight was canceled, I was now traveling alone, hopelessly trying to find the bus I was supposed to take to Bryant Park. Once I finally figured out where my ride was, I got off at the wrong stop and was immediately overwhelmed by the Jumbotrons of Times Square. I hit people with my bags as I hopelessly wandered down the street. Within two minutes, someone came up to me asking for money. Words didn’t come out as I shook my head and walked away, accidentally hitting the man with my bag. I ended up finding our hotel by accident. I figured Addie would have an easy time figuring out where it was — all she had to do was follow the trail of victims I had clumsily knocked to the ground. 

A: When I finally made it to the hotel, the lobby was desolate, but Elaine was waiting for me 24 floors off the ground. We were so excited that we worried about falling asleep, but the long day of travel hit us hard, and we woke up the next morning over cups of coffee and jitters of anticipation.

It’s time for the Times
Editors take on the conference

A: Seeing “The New York Times” spelled out in its iconic font above the doorway calibrated the significance of the moment. We entered the building, a wide-open, minimalist space, and joined the crowd of editors milling in the lobby.

E: We still felt unsure but quickly started befriending other student editors. We walked into the large conference room to meet some of our idols.

A: Andy Rosenthal, the New York Times’ editorial page editor, opened the conference. Rosenthal delivered a revolutionary move by putting an op-ed, titled “End the Gun Epidemic in America,” on the front page instead of the editorial page, following the Charleston shooting at Emanuel AME Church. The article became the most-read piece on the site, topping out at 4.5 million views.

“What can we write about and publish that goes into a big conversation in the world?” Rosenthal asked.

He had an electricity about his speech — unreserved, unapologetic and unmoved. His voice was one we wanted to capture with the Old Gold and Black. Our editorials are also our most-read articles, and keeping them relevant and hard-hitting keeps the newspaper thriving.

E: Along with making sure the Old Gold and Black covers the necessary issues — even the ones difficult to discuss — we also strive to produce quality content and to provide trustworthy news. 

Richard Jones, the associate editor of the New York Times, gave advice on the integrity of a newspaper.

“We sell credibility,” Jones said. He went on to say that journalists provide information to the masses, and therefore it is our duty to make sure that this information is reliable. 

Part of that credibility includes fact checking, making sure that all statistics in an article are correct and that spelling errors are at a minimum. He gave an example of an article that misspelled “chicken dippers” as “chicken diapers.”

“We all have our ‘honey mustard chicken diapers’ moment,” Jones said. “It’s okay … you’ll get through it.”

A: Jones’ advice came with a talk on ethical dilemmas. All of us, as editors, were asked to contribute to the discussion. Would we interfere if someone’s life was in danger? What if we were too far away to help? Would we keep shooting?

There are several famous cases in journalism, including a photo reel of a woman drowning. The conference was split on whether the photos should have been taken. On the one hand, they’re powerful enough to stir up a storm that could save future lives, but on the other, the images depicted the death of a real person, a woman with family and friends. Sometimes there are no right answers, but the nature of journalism holds a hefty responsibility.

“You’re living with the people you’re writing about. It teaches you what the responsibility is, to treat people fairly,” Rosenthal said.

According to Rosenthal, the best way to remain objective is to replace the names of the subjects in the article with your own name. Writing is an exercise in empathy, and as Jones said, being a journalist requires “perseverance, a spirit of service and a spirit of generosity. ... You’re never going to make any money, and people are going to hate you — it’s the best. I love it.”

Final thoughts

We would like to thank Dr. Deno Trakas, chairman of the publications board at the college, and Jo Ann Brasington ’89, our adviser, for sharing this opportunity and making the trip possible. Wofford Trustee Corry Oakes ’89 heard about the conference and offered his enthusiastic support. He arranged for us to have a room and VIP treatment at the Hampton Inn Times Square. The staff there could not have been nicer. We learned so much and will carry those lessons with us as we take on the world as Wofford graduates.

by Addie Lawrence ’16 and Elaine Best ’16

Summer 2016