Guest post: Leading the movement, one editor at a time

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the first of those posts. Maggie Cagney is a senior from Chicago, and she is specializing in reporting at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The world of journalism is always changing. No longer must we go to the local grocery store to pick up a newspaper for $1.25 — we can read it on our laptops in the comfort of our own homes. No longer must we scan the front page of one newspaper for the major headlines of the day — we can visit Twitter and access every major headline of the day from numerous news organizations.

Some people fear that print publications are fading fast. I say the possibilities are endless.

From the aggregation of news on social media sites to the opportunities blogs provide for anyone who wishes to share their voice, the means of communication are expanding. And we are experiencing it firsthand as editors in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill. As editors of The Carrboro Commons and Durham Voice, part print and part online local publications, the world of journalism is in our hands. We, as UNC Professor Jock Lauterer says, are doing something larger than contributing to a community newspaper — this is live fire.

As editors of a community newspaper, we are the mechanics of the news business, says Jim Roberts, assistant managing editor of The New York Times. Community journalism will never die, and we make that possible.

Many people believe that the men and women behind the scenes do not have an important role. But as someone who has experience both on and off the stage, our role as editors is equally important.

When I pick up a newspaper, my eyes immediately go to the headlines. I look to see whether the pictures and their placement are visually compelling. I take note of the layout — a newspaper with an overbearing amount of text that is not broken up by pictures, headlines and textboxes doesn’t work for me.

As an editor, having the ability to look at a newspaper and find what works and what doesn’t is a powerful thing. But what is more important is putting those thoughts into action and doing it in the most creative way possible.

The field of journalism is moving toward new means of communication, and as editors, it is our job to develop innovative ways to share news with our audience. Our generation grew up with so many valuable social media tools that make change beautiful, but it takes more than an understanding of these tools.

We must challenge what is put in front of us, as Roberts said in a recent visit to our editing class. Take, for example, a New York Times’ slideshow of the American forces leaving Iraq. The pictures, the soldiers’ faces and the movement, tell the story better than 800 words of text. This is our chance to be the change in journalism, and to create something that stands out for its creativity.

A career goal of mine has always been to write something that is life-changing. That is my goal as a reporter.

But my goal as an editor is to create something that is life-changing. I want to create a sequence of photos for a news organization that will be remembered for its visual impact. I want to create a front-page headline that evokes some sort of reaction from my audience, whether the reaction is joy, anger or inspiration.

As editors, we have the chance to inspire and produce something that is more than just words. And with the proliferation of blogs and news websites, many doors have opened for us. It is our time to lead the movement toward new means of communication. It is our time to be as creative as we can in nontraditional ways. It is our time to light the fire.