Our B.O.S.S. (Brendon D’Souza, Olivia Whenman, Sarah Windon, Stephanie Lewis) explain all the drills of producing and editing each section of our student magazine.
What do the Grapeshot section editors do?
Brendon (B): A section editor looks after a particular part of the magazine to make sure that there is sufficient and quality content for each issue. I was involved with researching ideas and writing articles, as well as proofing and editing articles submitted by contributors and the student body.
Olivia (O): I commission and edit the articles for a particular section of the magazine (Features, News, Regulars or Submissions). This means working with writers/contributors on their pieces so they are ready for publication. I also write pieces for the magazine.
Sarah (Sa): As a section editor I work in a team environment, write and commission articles, assess and edit the pieces that will go to print, work with student contributors, promote engagement among students and be accountable for meeting deadlines for the eight publications per year.
Stephanie (St): We each look after one section per issue – either news, features, submissions or regulars (we rotate each issue so we all get a go at everything!) We organise contributors to write for us, and also write ourselves. And then, we edit!
How do you do it?
B: We decided at the start of the year that each of the four section-editors (B.O.S.S.) would rotate so that we had equal experience with each section. The magazine runs on a four-week cycle. Each month we spend two weeks writing and/or sourcing content, then one week of proofing and individual editing. In the final week the whole editing team, that’s the editor-in-chief, deputy editor and the section editors, along with our contributors, getting together to do a final edit. We print of draft copies of the magazine and get our eyes sharpened to proofread and check for any errors… we don’t want these to be in the final printed copy!
O: The first step is establishing what pieces need to be written, after this I usually put a call-out asking if anyone would like to write the piece. If this is unsuccessful I’ll commission someone to write the piece. Once the piece is finished I then edit it and send the writer any feedback or comments on what needs to be changed (if there is anything that needs to be changed). I then edit it a second time. After this process another section editor edits the pieces in my section to check for any mistakes, etc I might have missed.
Sa: We are briefed by our editor-in-chief for each issue, we then suggest story ideas and form an outline of what will be going in each section. News and submissions is more subjective to what is happening at Macquarie and what people send in to us. When we receive all our commissioned articles we begin the first edit – this involves fact checking and making sure the piece is coherent and grammatically correct, we contact the contributor if things need changing in any way. We also have the final edit where we double check everything before it goes to the printers.
St: We get directives from the editor-in-chief and deputy editor as to what they want in our section, and also get the chance to pitch any of our own ideas, as well those of any contributor who has approached us. Once the editorial team has decided on the content we organise it to be written by contributors, and by ourselves. We edit the work submitted to us, and each other’s work as well, and then submit it to the editor-in-chief, deputy editor and designer to be prettied up and put in the magazine. Once a month, on the weekend before the magazine goes to print, we all meet in the office for the final edit, which involves carefully going through every page of the magazine to make sure no errors sneak their way through!
What do you love the most about your work at Grapeshot?
B: I suppose I have to be a bit more specific than EVERYTHING but if I had to sum it up in three words it would be friendships, experiences and opportunities.
The thing that absolutely makes or breaks a working team is the relationship between staff members. Everyone who has come on board brings that star factor that they add to the magazine. I guess it comes with the cosmopolitan nature of our magazine in that we are putting together content from a range of social issues. You become (or already are) open to a range of ideas, views and opinions on how society operates. Therefore the culture within the office is open, understanding and inviting. We’re all on the same page (excuse the pun) and we all want what’s best for the magazine. I’ve made great friendships with my peers and wish them all the best with everything that they attempt post-university.
The experience of running a magazine is crazy. It’s pretty much non-stop and you are constantly racing around the clock to compete with the deadlines. But somehow or another we’ve managed to get through in the end. In the grand scheme of things at university we’ve only played a small role but I truly believe we’ve challenged the staff and students to become more aware of what’s happening. This year we wanted to radically change the audience of our magazine, not only targeting arts students, but also making the content applicable to the wider community; in particular the business and science students, who make up the largest schools at the university. This meant that the structure of the magazine had to be updated. We merged the news section back into the magazine (previously it was a fortnightly newspaper) and introduced columns on business and science. There was a lot of heat in the political field this year and our great writers and contributors rose to the challenge to debate and outline what was taking place. We took engaging the students and staff to a whole new level to show them exactly what the magazine is capable of: whether it was running the O-Week stall (remember our lucky dip and pie-throwing challenge where I was the unfortunate receiver of the cream pies) or throwing fantastic launch parties for the earlier issues (the first of which was quite memorable. If you were there then you know what I mean).
There have been many opportunities to produce great writing because of the hard colleagues who genuinely want to help you to achieve. Aside from regular editing I’ve been able to have writing published in both print and digital forms, and I’ve been able to write on many different topics including food (The Smiling Chef), sustainability, politics, religion, travel and pop culture. I am currently working on is a student cookbook that will be published at the end of the year. I’ve gained skills in event management and web publishing as well as editing and proofing. Grapeshot is definitely a convergent workplace and has provided me with many skills for the future. Working with the photographers and designers has also been great because you start to look out for ideas/inspiration for these areas while writing.
O: I really like that I am able to engage with students to create a publication that reflects the diversity and talent at Macquarie University.
Sa: The experience working on a publication has been extremely rewarding and I feel it is preparing me for what is to come once I graduate.
St: I love working together with people to make something exciting, and I love getting to write and talk to interesting and wonderful people I never would have otherwise.
How do you manage your time of being Grapeshot section editors and students with your other commitments?
B: As I mentioned earlier there is a lot of work that must be juggled for each issue. On top of that you’ve got your assignments, family commitments and a social life to maintain. A phrase that immediately comes to mind is Nike’s slogan, ‘Just Do It!’ I’ve only learnt to do this quite recently but sometimes you really have to just put your foot down and get the work going. This semester I’ve been lucky to only have two days of classes and two days of work. I usually ‘Grapeshot’ for about two to three hours at a time when I’m in the office and get some of the additional work done at home. The thing is, if you want to do something that bad, you’ll find the time to do it and get it done to the best of your ability.
O: I put aside time for editing every week. However, sometimes my assignment load has been overwhelming and I’ve had to ask for some help from other members in the team (which is why it’s so great to work in a team because everyone can help each other out). It’s all about finding balance. It does take a while to get used to the routine of editing but eventually it becomes a part of your everyday routine.
Sa: I try to be as organised as possible and manage my time and commitments. It has been a great learning experience.
St: It is tough! I write a lot of lists, and sometimes don’t get enough sleep. But it just comes down to having to be ridiculously organised.
What challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome them?
B: Possibly one of the biggest challenges I faced this year was stepping up to editing. Not just accepting any content but to really get into the grit of the piece, see where the writer’s coming from and to critique whether their submission is suitable for publication, even for creative content. Sometimes this involves bluntly telling people that their work needs to be improved. It’s tough at first but the results are what really make the magazine shine in the end.
O: Thinking outside the box – trying to find an idea that isn’t boring or overdone – can sometimes be hard. In this case, the more you are forced to think outside the box the better you get at it. There are stories in small things or in places you wouldn’t expect. So being more aware or even talking to other people is a really great way to find things out.
Sa: A challenge I encountered was needing an article ASAP and not having any time to write it myself. Luckily there are many contributors who love writing so I was able to put a call out and get the piece I needed.
St: Sometimes trying to organise people and coordinate everything can be really difficult, but I have learnt to just take a deep breath and work around it. It also helps to remember that sometimes you will be that person who needs an extension on the deadline, so don’t be a bitch about it. As long as it all comes together, it’s all good.
What are some of the expected and the unexpected this year?
B: We always expect to have something published and on the stands but we never really know what the magazine will look like till the printed copies are in our hands. It’s always a great surprise when we open the brown boxes and the end of the month to see our finished work, and it’s even better seeing empty stands (and although it means we have to drag another box down to fill it up again), it means people are reading the magazine. Our dynamic team always have new ideas for distribution, celebrations and producing content for the mag and web and coming to work always means new opportunities and challenges. You never really know where an idea will take you, you’ve just got to go along with the ride and make the most of it.
Sa: I didn’t expect it to be so much fun, the Grapeshot team are an exciting bunch to be around and there is always someone in the office working on something.
St: I expected to love the editing side of things, as that is what I was excited about when I started. But having to write a lot has really got me into writing again! One of the best things about Grapeshot is that you can learn so much, by having to do so many different things!
What advice would you have for those who are looking to apply for section editor?
B: You’ve got to be committed to the position. The role requires both day, night and weekend hours but if you are passionate about getting a head-start in the media/publishing industries than this is the job for you. You never know where the content will come from so you’ve got to do a bit of talent scouting when you’re out and about on campus or even in the general community. Whether it’s friends from your classes or a person with a cool story that you come across (while serving them across the counter at your part-time job). Everyone has a story to tell and it’s your goal to help them get it from their mind to paper. Of course you’ve got to do as much background research on the subject as your writer, which sometimes helps you to steer the piece in a new direction. In addition it’s a good idea to regularly follow the major publications, as well as student publications from other universities to see what ideas they are discussing and how they are presented on the page (in terms of layout, design etc.). You’ve also got to be a team player. Look out for your fellow editors and writers. If you find a story that may be suitable for another section, or if you know someone who would be interested in writing a piece don’t be afraid to share your knowledge. Not only does this share the workload and mean that many people are getting involved, but showing your colleagues that you trust and value their expertise can help to form friendship and networks. It’s a year-long commitment but if you are willing to commit then you’ll fit right in! No matter what comes your way in life, the best thing to do it “Keep Smiling” and march on.
O: If you’re somebody who is naturally curious or wants to know about the print industry being a section editor is really, really great. It does involve a lot of teamwork so make sure you’re a team player. A lot of the time you learn as you go so if you’re not feeling too confident about your skills or capabilities as an editor, don’t worry! Practice makes perfect.
Sa: If you’re thinking about it and you’re not sure – just do it, you never know what might it might lead to and who you will meet.
St: This is really a great role. You will learn a shitload and make friends with everyone on the team, as you will have something to do with all of them at some stage! Be prepared to have your editor’s and journalist’s hats on and you will be sweet as :)