Reflecting on a Semester as Editor-in-Chief of the Eagle

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Reflecting on a Semester as Editor-in-Chief of the Eagle

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Well over a year ago now, I attended an orientation event for soon-to-be ninth graders that were new to Obama. While otherwise uneventful, that night we were charged with choosing our electives for the upcoming year. I can still distinctly recall the genuine surprise and excitement I felt at the prospect of a journalism class. I had always considered myself a decent writer, and this to me was a way to hone that skill while still retaining a high degree of freedom; instead of constructing five paragraph essays to a given prompt, I could write about more or less whatever I wanted to. Without exaggeration, the decision that evening to mark down journalism as my preferred humanity was one of the single best in recent memory.

Now, I reflect on my tenure as Editor-in-Chief of the small but spirited Eagle Online. First and foremost, this has been a remarkable and unique experience, one not afforded by a normal journalism class. I am fortunate enough to have an entire class period solely devoted to working on the school newspaper, and as a result I’ve immersed myself far more than I could have ever envisioned. Of course, this opportunity comes with its challenges. In fact, as I take a step back and look at my involvement as a whole, I realize that in many ways what I consider to be my greatest accomplishment in my role with the paper has also been my greatest obstacle. I truly believe that the purpose of a platform such as the Eagle is to give a voice to the student body, to foster and share the thoughts of my peers in an uninhibited and respectful manner. I make an effort to reach out to those hesitant to write and to encourage those already doing so to keep it up, because I appreciate the value of having a space to share one’s opinions, and I want everybody to feel comfortable putting their work out there regardless of writing level.

This mindset often forces me to step outside of my comfort zone and do things that go against my first instinct. I have a tendency to micromanage, to be overly perfectionist, to distrust anyone not named Sam Bisno. When I first started editing, I would often find myself re-writing complete paragraphs or even entire articles to suit my arbitrary tastes. Upon being chosen as Editor-in-Chief, I began to think more critically about the real merit of a school newspaper, and only then did I realize the error of my ways. We are by no stretch of the imagination a professional journalistic publication. We do not pay our writers; our goal should not be to produce the best, most refined pieces, but rather to provide a community-oriented means for aspiring authors to present their ideas. I continue to struggle with this concept of a sort of broader ownership, and I constantly must remind myself of the true reason I edit, whether it is limiting myself to purely grammatical fixes and small changes to sentence structure, or letting my fellow editors share the duties instead of doing everything myself.

Being an editor has also allowed me to broaden my horizons beyond just the newspaper itself. Firstly, I have worked on a few initiatives to expand the media outreach of the paper, some of which have succeeded and some of which have not, such as the Eagle Instagram page, live streams of Obama sporting events, and the implementation of new features on the website, including a revamped homepage, clearer categorization, and a holiday countdown clock. I do not consider myself to be extremely technology savvy, so these endeavors have served as welcome exposure to new tools I had not previously explored. I have also had the pleasure of communicating with several prominent public figures from throughout Pittsburgh and in the field of journalism, specifically Nina Esposito-Visgitis of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, David Shribman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jon Bois of SB Nation, Pennsylvania State Senate District 38 Democratic candidates Stephanie Walsh, Michelle Boyle, and Lindsey Williams, as well as Mayor Peduto’s Chief of Staff, Dan Gilman. It was intimidating to contact many of these people, as I have never been one to achieve socially, but the connections I have made as a result of my position with the Eagle are invaluable and it is almost surreal to be able to talk to such important individuals and hear their insight into the world today. I will also be attending the Washington Journalism and Media Conference at George Mason University this summer. I could never have even dreamed of opportunities like these before I became involved with the Eagle.

Above all else, my time spent as editor has helped me grow as a writer. By putting together a new article each week and by internalizing the feedback of those around me, I like to think that those limited skills I possessed way back at the start of my freshman year have improved, at least slightly. That being said, I still have quite a ways to go, and I sincerely hope to continue contributing to the Eagle for the rest of my high school career.

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Reflecting on a Semester as Editor-in-Chief of the Eagle