By Taryana Odayar, Executive Editor.
This is my last ever Editorial – the very last one! Can you believe it?!
Looking back over my time as Exec, I feel proud of everything we have achieved as an Editorial Board, and a sense of nostalgia for everything I will be giving up by stepping down. In my first ever Editorial as Exec, I said that, “No newspaper works in just one medium any more, and digital journalism plays an integral role in raising the immediacy with which a story gets out, as well as immersing readers in the stories being reported, using video, audio, pictures and text.” This is something that I have tried to address as Exec, for instance by overseeing the development and publishing of ‘the Beaver LSE’ iPhone app. I am proud to say that the app has now reached 1,000 downloads at the time of writing, thereby improving the newspaper’s reach and visibility significantly.
I also initiated a complete website redesign and campaign to reinvigorate our social media presence. Our Online team took to live tweeting LSE and SU events, and regularly scheduling and sharing articles on our Twitter and FB pages became a top priority. After all, there is no point in expending so much time and effort on a paper if the content doesn’t reach its intended audience! I am also thrilled to be able to say that I was able to obtain a verified Twitter account for The Beaver, making it the only LSE society to have a verified Twitter account (to the best of my knowledge)!
Other contributions to the development of our website include our online Editor’s rebranded blogs section to attract more readers and writers to The Beaver and diversify our content. One of our Features Editors introduced a special format using Atavist to publish long form articles and interviews, and I collaborated with LooSE TV to arrange for these interviews to be filmed, edited and uploaded on their YouTube channel.
Having introduced an ‘Interviews’ section dedicated to discussions with high-profile public figures, I am pleased to report that we have published an interview every week in our 32-page print editions since introducing it as Executive Editor, with the exception of our Black History Month issue and the last issue of last year.
The opportunity to interview Heads of State, Ministers, Nobel prize laureates and other high-profile figures is one that I have not taken for granted. The LSE’s location in the heart of London as well as its reputation have attracted some of the biggest movers and shakers of this era for public lectures and events, and so I feel it would be tantamount to sin to let them walk in and out of these hallowed portals without at least trying to obtain an opportunity to ask them the questions that you wish mainstream media would ask.
Most students assume that our Editors mainly just edit articles and respond to the odd email on a weekly basis, but there is so much more than that. For instance, it also entails carrying heavy stacks of Beaver newspapers to far-flung locations across campus in an effort to distribute them, and almost toppling over in the process. This is a struggle every Editor braves week in and week out, particularly the ones who carry two stacks of 100 newspapers to a particular location in one go. On the plus side, after you drop 100 newspapers on your foot the first time, this provides you with the Herculean willpower to skilfully march through LSE to your target location with single-minded determination, without even pausing to catch your breath. Who needs to gym after that workout?!
On a more serious note, on Sundays I usually work from 10am till 10pm on The Beaver, editing sections which don’t have Editors, such as The Union, Interviews, NAB, and till our last round of elections the Sports section as well. The other Editors also give up their Sundays to come in and slog away at their sections, sometimes having to wait hours until writers send in articles at the eleventh hour before editing and then formatting them on Adobe InDesign. Since the Media Centre is located in Saw Swee Hock (SSH), and since SSH closes at 10pm every night, this has proved rather problematic in the past for eager beavers scrambling to finish working on the paper on Sunday night ahead of our Monday morning print deadline. As a result, there may have been times when some of us have risked it all to stay in the Media Centre past 10pm to sort out the paper, got locked inside the building for our trouble, and then had to run to the ground floor and desperately flap our arms like geese gone wild in an effort to signal Security guards heading home after their shift. Imagine getting locked in an LSE building, without heating, without food, without anywhere to sleep, until morning. Let that sink in. That’s what we put on the line to get our paper to the printers – and we don’t even get paid for it! Ha!
Then when Sunday is over and done with, there’s Monday morning to look forward to. Having slept only a couple of hours the night before after editing interviews and articles, walking into the Media Centre like a zombie at 8am with an empty stomach and a large black coffee to polish off the paper before the noon print deadline becomes pretty standard. So is forgetting to eat until 1pm, which is when everything has been sent to the printers and we’ve rung them up or emailed them to check that all 32 pages have gone through and the image resolutions are up to scratch. Once this is confirmed, getting food into the system is next on the agenda, followed by a well deserved nap (i.e. collapsing in exhaustion) on one of the Media Centre beanbags.
There is also no “off” switch. Even when I’m not writing an article, doing research for or transcribing an interview, formatting content on InDesign for the print issue, or uploading content on our website for our app and social media pages, I am constantly checking a steady stream of emails from publicists, promoters, marketing companies, PR agencies, writers, editors, the SU, LSE Press Office and a whole spectrum of other parties, all talking about 101 different things. On Halloween alone – 31st October – I had emails from 33 different groups to respond to.
So, although it will be nice to be able to go to class having done my readings for a change, to be able to submit a formative essay on time, and not having to pull an all-nighter to finish a summative, there are some things that I will certainly miss about working at The Beaver. I will miss the hilarious office banter and running commentary on the articles received each week, I will miss my desk in the media centre and the glorious view of Clare Market Street from it, and I will even miss working on the NAB. After all, there’s nothing like being able to poke fun at an institution that sometimes takes itself way too seriously, and doesn’t exactly help its situation by providing us with more ammo each week. However, one thing I will not miss is the strange look I get from Freshers or non- LSE people when they ask me what the name of the student newspaper is, and I brightly respond with “Beaver!” This is usually received with a comic “You’ve gotta be shitting me” expression, until I hurriedly explain that the paper is named after our school mascot and is not in any way a reference to a woman’s nether regions. Awkward.
And now for the ‘Thank You’s’! Normally, I would be flouting SU bylaws by thanking the following people, but since they have all upped and left the LSE there’s no fear of that. So I would like to sincerely thank Sian Thurgood, Heather Carroll and Dave Bradshaw, who were so supportive of The Beaver team and the work we do. The role of SU staff involved with LSE Societies should be facilitative and collaborative, as opposed to getting in the way of Societies and being more of a hindrance than a source of helpfulness. For instance, I am sure sitting and reading our newspaper cover to cover for libel every Sunday evening wouldn’t have been Sian, Heather or our previous Libel officer’s idea of a relaxing, work-free weekend, but they did it anyways because they knew it made our lives much easier. Their work is all the more appreciated after working with the SU and LSE Press Office over the past few weeks, after which I have decided to add “patience of a cathedral of Saints” to my CV with respect to the former and “cryptography and code-cracking expert” for the latter.
I would also like to thank my Beaver mentor, mother-hen and most importantly ‘good centre-left’ Twitter account holder and Amstell look-alike Liam Hill for taking a chance on a kid like me and appointing me as Deputy Features Editor in my first year, unknowingly setting me on the path to becoming Exec a year later.
And last but certainly not least, I would like to thank my untiring, unwavering, unrelenting Editorial Board, who pulled out all the stops on a weekly basis to chase down content and writers for the paper. I will miss wondering what secrets lie hidden in Greg’s beard, Stefanos’s exasperated cries whenever the name ‘Varoufakis’ is mentioned in the office, seeing a very hungover Dan strolling in on Sundays wearing sunglasses and a lopsided grin, Alex ‘50 shades’ Gray’s sarcastic non-sequiturs and atrocious rap lyrics, and looking like a pair of clowns with Joseph while trying to signal Security guards outside SSH after getting locked in past 10pm, as well as all of the other Editors whose antics I don’t have space to mention, but shan’t forget anytime soon. Looking back, we do seem very much like one big, dysfunctional family, and like any family there have been some truly nutty moments in the madhouse that we call the Media Centre, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
On another note, I honestly have no idea what I’m going to do on Sundays from now on. It’s like I’m gaining an extra day of the week! But at least I won’t get ticked off anymore by a horrified Niall Healy for choosing to hang out with Photoshop and InDesign over actual people – “Taryana it’s a Friday night!!! You’re young! You should be out partying instead of working on The Beaver!” Sorry Niall. Now lets just hope I don’t sleepwalk into the Beaver office next Sunday and startle the Ed board.
As for whoever takes the wheel as the next Executive Editor, I would first like to say congratulations – you’ve taken on possibly the most demanding, time-consuming society position at LSE, which means that on some days you will wish you could take a six-month vacation twice a year. But that’s ok, because those days are few and far in between. For the most part, you will enjoy every second of it, and so I urge you to appreciate it and make the most of it, because it is not an opportunity afforded to everyone. It is a privilege to lead a team of incredibly intelligent, hardworking and talented students, to deliver fresh and thought-provoking news on a weekly basis. It is a responsibility that I trust you will not take lightly, and I know you will protect the integrity of our newspaper above all else, attend to it with immense attention to detail, and watch over its long-term direction as well as the wellbeing of our Editors and writers. I wish you the very best of luck, and hope that you find it as rewarding and worthwhile as I did.
And so, after nearly an entire year at the helm, this is your Executive Editor signing off for the very last time! So long Beaver! Thanks for the memories – its been a good run! Over and out. *Mic Drop*