A day in the life of the Northern Star

By Josh Albrecht

As the first month of school comes winding down, the entire university finally has gotten into the swing of things.

Campus groups and athletics are going on virtually every day and the campus is alive with activity as all of us settle into our school-year routines. Of course, many of our routines have been greatly altered during the past few weeks, but we have created new routines to help us deal with this tragic time.

For some of us, those routines consist of eating pizza at least once a day and walking home from work at 3 a.m.

For others, routine is going to class and then doing homework, eating, partying, playing video games and then going to bed at 2 a.m.

But really, at this point you might be wondering, “Sure Josh, all this talk about routines is nice, but really, what is your point?”

That, my friends, is an excellent question. The point is that at the Northern Star, we have a routine as well, and I thought it would be nice for everyone to get a feel of what it is like putting out a college newspaper on a daily basis.

So, here is a quick, mini-look at the Star’s ambience.

A normal school day begins with our circulation department hitting the mean streets of DeKalb just as the sun is beginning to shine on the new day. And they finish dispersing the paper, all 16,000 copies, around our community by 9:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, back at the office, which is located in the Campus Life Building, Suite 130, our advertising department tracks down potential clients and schmoozes with their current clients so that we can get the money to put out the paper.

At the same time, our business department is making it so that we are always on budget and that everything is running smoothly. Our classifieds staff is busy gathering the information for the classifieds page and greeting people as they walk into the office.

Then, at about noon, I make my way into what is a relatively quiet newsroom and check my messages and e-mail to see what new information about the community people have informed me about.

It is also at this time when I find out about what errors were made in that day’s newspaper. We continually strive to have an error-free paper, and we pride ourselves on accurate reporting. Yet, sometimes, as any student does, we may make a mistake so we have to correct it immediately.

We hate mistakes just as much as everyone else, and that is why it’s important for everyone in the community to help us in eliminating our mistakes by letting us know when we have made one and by helping us get the right information ahead of time.

I also would like to take this opportunity to apologize for our errors, and pledge to you that we are taking as many steps as we can to minimize the amount of errors that we do make.

At about 1:30 p.m., the newsroom begins to pick up and reporters are busy making calls and writing stories, while the production staff is hard at work laying out the next day’s paper by designing the ads and creating space for the news stories.

The photo staff also is madly taking photos throughout the day and developing film so that we can give our readers some very nice visuals.

Things remain at this pace until about 5:30 p.m. when the editors gather for a meeting to decide which stories will be placed on what page, and what the daily editorial will be. In the paper, the daily editorial is labeled as “Our Opinion,” and showcases our editorial board’s opinion on many of today’s hot topics.

At this point, our copy desk crew makes their way into the newsroom and the advertising, business, classifieds and production staffs head out the door. Copy desk begins reading the stories that will be in the next day’s paper and checks for crazy grammatical things like dangling modifiers.

By the end of the night, each story written by a Star reporter will be read at least six times before it is sent to the printer.

Then, at about 7:30 p.m., our design team cracks down on providing a visually interesting layout for every page of the paper. They do cool things like strange type treatment that make the page more appealing to the human eye. The design process will then last for awhile, depending on how big the paper is going to be (we usually average about 16 to 24 pages).

All the while, our Web site is being updated and designed to bring the news via the world wide web (the site is www.star.niu.edu, just in case you didn’t know). Our hard-working computer gurus strive to keep the technical side from completely crashing, something that happens from time to time.

Then finally, after all that hoopla and hairpulling, at about 2 a.m. and sometimes at 3:30 a.m. the paper is finally fully designed and checked for errors and is given to our printers, the beloved Castle Printech. And then I get to go home.

And then about two to three hours later, the process starts all over again.

It’s a nice routine.