The Daily, and editor-in-chief Jake Weyer, wrap up an award-winning year
In May, Jake Weyer steps down from what he calls "the best job in the world": editor-in-chief of the Minnesota Daily. Weyer graduated in May of 2005 with a B.A. in Journalism--prior to graduation, he sat down to talk about his year as editor, how the Daily has changed, and the challenges and opportunities facing the paper in the future.
Murphy Reporter: In general, what are your reflections on your year as editor-in-chief?
Jake Weyer: It's been quite an experience. I think this is the best job in the world for someone who wants to get into the newspaper business. It's kind of ironic, though: I have an internship next year as a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune--which is a great paper and I'm really looking forward to the job--but I won't have nearly the same kind of responsibility and authority there as I do here. In fact, if I become a reporter and stick with that as a career, I may never have this level of responsibility again.
MR: What has the paper accomplished this year that you're particularly proud of?
JW: I think the Daily has made a lot of great strides this year. I'm particularly happy about our new audio/video department, which is responsible for all the new A/V content on our website. Kent Erdahl, who's a new media major in the SJMC, is the A/V editor and he is doing really great work covering all kinds of events around the U that people want to see. You can see entire events on our website as if you're really there, or hear the audio of speeches or lectures. Kent has lots of freelancers who are working on the A/V shooting and editing, and that's the thing that's really great--it's opening up lots of opportunities for broadcast journalism students. In the past, we've had a lot of broadcast people leave the Daily because they couldn't work on broadcast projects. Now, those opportunities are there for those people, and there are going to be lots of other opportunities as that department grows.
The other big accomplishment this year was the restructuring of the arts and entertainment section of the paper. We moved to a one-story front cover with some great design work by Drew Covi, our graphics editor. It makes A&E a really distinct section of the paper, which needed to happen. I was really happy that the paper won first place in the A&E category of the Associated Collegiate Press's "Best of the Midwest" awards--I think that section really deserved it. [Note: see sidebar for a list of other recent awards won by the Daily.]
MR: You've had some challenges too this year, particularly with regard to issues of diversity.
JW: Yes, that was the biggest challenge by far this year. When I first came on as editor, I was shocked to learn that the Daily was viewed by a lot of people as this sort of "white gentleman's paper" that wasn't open to different perspectives or ways of telling stories. It was weird to think of it that way since the majority of the Daily staff is women, but that's the impression that's out there, particularly among people of color who have never felt that the Daily represented their concerns or even bothered to cover stories that were important to them. Making the paper more diverse, both in terms of coverage and staff, was something that I put front and center from the beginning, but we still made a lot of mistakes this year. There were photos and stories that got cut that shouldn't have, events that should have been covered that weren't, and then in March Nick Woomer's article caused a huge firestorm and we're still dealing with the aftermath of that. [Note: read Woomer's article, "'Celebrating diversity' is a recipe for disaster" at http://www.mndaily.com.]
Basically, the Daily needs to take the time and energy to really deal with these issues. We need to get outside our own comfort zones and make connections with the organizations around campus like the BSU [Black Student Union] and make sure that we understand--or at least are aware of--the issues that are important to them. We need to really push the fact that diversity in the Daily doesn't mean stories "about diversity"--it means actually getting out there and covering events and people from those communities that have been ignored in the past. I've really been trying these last few months to make some of those changes: the week after spring break, we had a public forum in Coffman to talk about the paper's past practices and the future of diversity at the Daily. We need to do more stuff like that--show that we care about this and that we're doing something about it.
MR: Overall, would you call this year a success for the Daily?
JW: Oh yeah, definitely. We've just won a ton of awards from the SPJ [Society of Professional Journalism], the ACP's Best of the Midwest, and a number of business and ad awards. It's great to come to the end of the year and be recognized for the work you've done. It's a big morale booster.
People at the U might not realize this, but we are really, really hard on ourselves at the Daily--as much as everyone else criticizes us, we criticize ourselves even more. We look at the paper every single day and pick it apart, and most of the time we're always saying, "oh yeah, we really screwed that up, didn't we." That's why it's especially nice to get those awards, and realize that as hard as we are on ourselves, other people recognize that this is truly a great paper.
The Minnesota Daily Alumni Association Update
By Nick Doty
President, Minnesota Daily Alumni Association
Joe Roche wins Daily's Harrison Salisbury Annual Achievement Award
When Joe Roche was a columnist at The Minnesota Daily in the mid-1990s he showed a passion for international events, particularly in the Middle East. His columns tried to bring readers closer to the deadly conflicts of this center of controversy.
Fast-forward 10 years. Roche would be smack in the middle of conflict again, only this time he wasn't battling nasty "Letters to the Editor." His new opponents required him to bring his M-16 rifle and a Humvee: Roche is now a soldier for the U.S. Army and recently returned from 15 months in Iraq.
Roche, 37, returned to his home state of Minnesota on April 23 to talk about his devotion to reporting and writing while serving in Iraq during his keynote speech speaker at the Daily's 16th annual Alumni and Staff Awards and Recognition banquet. Roche's loyalty and diligence as an "unofficial" war correspondent from Iraq earned him the Daily's Harrison Salisbury Annual Achievement Award, presented at the banquet.
During Roche's Iraq tour, he stayed true to his Daily roots by keeping a journal of his activities, and by keeping up with Western news through the Internet. But he was bothered by much of the news he heard: reports of faulty intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the harshly divided 2004 U.S. presidential campaign, and rising anti-war sentiment. That's when he went public with his journals.
For months, Roche's detailed, thoughtful essays reached the pages of American's top publications, and his front-line correspondence was reported and lauded on many major American talk shows. But perhaps the peak of Roche's essay writing came when President Bush quoted Roche's writing in his nomination acceptance speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
Not only has Roche distinguished himself once again as a writer, his military colleagues rave about Joe the soldier. In Stars and Stripes, the U.S. Department of Defense newspaper for American military personnel, Staff Sgt. Ezrah Brown, called Roche "'one of the best (soldiers) I've ever seen.'" The MDAA is proud to have Joe Roche as the recipient of the 2005 Salisbury Award.
For more information on the Minnesota Daily Alumni Association, or to sign up for the Daily alumni e-newsletter, please contact Annie Wells, Daily director of communications and development. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (612) 627-4080.
Daily Mentorship Program Launches Speaker Series
After a two-year hiatus the popular Friday speaker series returned to the Daily offices in April! The program partners with local alumni and other journalism, legal and business experts to present biweekly, one-hour seminar-discussions for Daily staff members. This is just one more training method, organized by the Minnesota Daily Alumni Association, to complement University curriculum and on-the-job training. Recent volunteer speakers covered the topics of enterprise reporting, computer-assisted reporting and internships.
We're always looking for volunteer speakers. Do you have expertise to share? Please contact the Daily communications and development department at: (612) 627-4080.
The Minnesota Daily won a number of awards for excellence in journalism and advertisement in 2005.
At the Society of Professional Journalists Region 6 conference, the Daily competed with papers from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. First-place winners go on to compete a national competition in Las Vegas in November. The SPJ awarded the Daily the following awards:
• First place, best all-around daily student newspaper
• Second place, editorial writing, Daily editorial board
• First place, sports column writing, Aaron Blake
• First place, sports writing, Ben Goessling: "Hirsch leaves goal-scoring, attention-gathering to others"; second place, sports writing, Ben Goessling: "Time to show them what you got, kid"; thrid place, sports writing, Ben Goessling, "Bits of kindness help recovery," (for the Washington Times).
• First place, best spot news photography, Kathy Easthagen: "Man killed near University Village"
• First place, best sports photography, Angela Hanson, photo of the volleyball team's entrance into the Final Four
• First place, feature writing, Emily Johns: "A call to arms and a long goodbye"
• First place, in-depth reporting, Kari Petrie and Geoff Ziezulewicz: "Telescope is an opportunity and controversy"
• Second place, general news writing, Kari Petrie: "Flaw could allow 2 votes."
• First place, spot news reporting, Anna Weggel: "Man killed near University Village"
• First place, feature photography, Thomas Whisenand: "Refugees seek new beginning"
• First place, general news photography, Thomas Whisenand: "Missing student found"
At the national College Newspaper Business and Advertising Managers Inc. conference, the Daily's business department also won several awards, including:
• First place, best classified group promotion: "Housing Guide"
• Second place, best newspaper promotion in color: "Dr. Date Promotion"
• Third place, best newspaper promotion campaign: "'MOE' coverage campaign"
• Third place, business manager of the year: Kyle Schneider
At the "Best of the Midwest" conference, sponsored by the Associated Collegiate Press, the Daily's news department was awarded the following honors:
• First place, best college newspaper for a broadsheet paper at a four-year college
• First place, best arts and entertainment section
• Second place, special section category: "A call to arms and a long goodbye"
• First place, news writing, Naomi Scott:"Med School tops price list"
• Third place, news writing,Than Tibbetts: "Going pro a tough decision for many student-athletes"
• The Daily also received an All-American rating with four marks of distinction from the ACP, which is their critique service's highest award. To be inducted into the ACP Hall of Fame, a publication must earn ten All-American ratings within 11 years; this is the Daily's third in three years.