Stay organized amid stressful situations

20 Apr

The year is wrapping up, and the HiLite staff is scurrying to complete its last issue, a whopper of 48 total pages, including inserts. With next year’s staff conceived, staff members are working ceaselessly to make a smooth transition to next year. Most of our staff would unhesitatingly say newspaper duties, compounded with finals and AP exams, make this last month the most stressful time of year.

But for me, that distinction is reserved for last month. March began innocuous enough. After a maestro, my reporter and I developed what we thought would be a terrific in-depth story on changing school policies toward autistics. I assigned graphics and photographs, and my reporter began gathering her interviews. About a week and half into the process, though, the story became an obvious dead end. My reporter learned that the school didn’t plan on changing any policies pertinent to autistics until well after the current freshmen had graduated.

I was in an uncomfortable position. The turnarounds between our publications are around three weeks long, so half of our preparation time had been wasted. Yet, my pages contained the most important story in the HiLite, and I wasn’t about to embarrass the newspaper with a nonstory. After hopeless attempts to alter the angle, I decided to dramatically shift courses. In light of the media hubbub behind Jeremy Lin, we moved to a story concerning the prevalence of stereotypes and those who challenge stereotypes. After rocketing out assignments and making rapid adjustments, with the help of a superb reporter, my team managed to create two spreads I was proud of by my first page deadline.

The experience, though stressful, was enlightening and educational. A tense situation can be solved through organization and teamwork, as cliché as that might sound. By communicating efficiently and clearly with my photographer, graphic artist and reporter, I was able to tackle a problem at a speed I didn’t know I was capable of. The situation was also a blessing in disguise. After revisions, the article on stereotypes turned out very well, probably better than the previously-planned story. Instead of taking the safe route and publishing the story that was mediocre, I decided the HiLite deserved better. In other words, don’t take the safe option; strive for excellence, even when it’s not convenient.

Yet, I might have avoided the situation altogether had I been more organized to begin with. I should have had my reporter conduct interviews in order of importance—we would have discovered the story’s problems much earlier. Informed research on my part would have been wise as well. In retrospect, I should have had a backup story prepared in case the planned one fell through, especially because the reporter wasn’t certain as to the story’s legitimacy in the first place.

Nevertheless, persevering through the initial mistakes was beneficial. If I didn’t make those mistakes, I could never say I overcame the most stressful incident of my recent journalistic career. Now, I can continue on to the second most stressful time of year.

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