Seventeen American University students gained a unique perspective into the world of The Washington Post when they were invited to watch the Post’s editorial team discuss the day’s news coverage.
Student Emma Bixler commented that the experience of sitting in on the editorial
meeting was different than she expected. She had thought the editors
would discuss what would be on the front page of the newspaper the next
day, “but instead the focus was on their online presence.”
Students who participate in AU’s University College have a laboratory component along with their regular course work. For their Understanding Media class, taught by School of Communication Professor Christine Lawrence, this means the students visit various media outlets in DC. The students have also taken field trips to the Politics and Prose independent bookstore, National Public Radio and The Washington Post. In the coming weeks, they have trips planned to National Geographic, NBC4 and possibly the Federal Communications Commission.
The visit to the Post was organized by Sharon Metcalf, SOC’s Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Programs, and Shira Stein, an SOC junior double majoring in journalism and biology, who serves as the UC program assistant for the class. The students realized what a singular opportunity it was to watch The Post’s editorial team in action.
"Observing the meeting and listening to the discussion on what would be in print that day was like hearing the news before it happened," said UC student Roma Kaczmarkiewicz. “We got to listen to the articles that would be on the front page and to current events that we didn't even know were going on yet.”
UC student Aaron Ruiz added that visiting The Washington Post was amazing. “It gave me a glimpse of the inner workings of one of the world's most accredited and influential media outlets,” he said. Tylere Guzman-Touchberry said she thought the “editorial meeting would be extremely formal, but it was actually much more relaxed, which makes for a better work environment.”
And Journalism major Nadia Slocum said that what she took away from the visit is the importance of journalists today having multimedia skills. What she realized after the tour, she said, is seeing all the steps The Washington Post has taken to keep viewers aware and engaged, and that “a journalist must be prepared to take on all the roles needed to produce a successful story.”
The students also discovered how newspapers gather metrics in today’s digital world. “It was also interesting to hear all the statistics of how many clicks certain headlines had and how long people spent on the articles, especially a couple days after the first presidential debate,” said Annie Bernstein.
Natine MacAuley added that she realized newspapers today need to use “modern-day technologies and traditional news methods to sustain their business in a social media driven world.”
The office environment at one of the world’s largest newspapers also surprised some of the students. "I thought it would be very hectic and loud, but it was the exact opposite," said Yamai Jack. "It was like the silent floor of the library…" She said that “the editorial meeting was super fascinating. It was really cool getting a sneak peek at what would be in the Post before the rest of the country did.”
But maybe the best takeaway is that the students now understand the importance of keeping up with the news. "Sitting in on an editor’s meeting and hearing all of the stories that would go up on the website later that day, was so amazing to hear," said Kendall Deese. "Since we went, I have read articles from The Post each day to see what is happening in the world."