Since I’ve been on the editorial board at the student-run newspaper The Maroon at Loyola University New Orleans for 1 1/2 years, I’ve seen
The Maroon place as finalists in various national and regional competitions. I’ve also attended multiple conferences and conventions on behalf of The Maroon.
This award season, which called for submissions of work published the past calendar year, The Maroon placed first in the nation, earning a National Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award in the categories of Editorial Writing and in In-Depth Reporting.
Of the work that won nationally, I think we submitted work in both categories that was well-reported, strongly supported by facts and answered questions the reader needed to know.
This reaffirms what I already knew, that we were doing what we do with excellence.
My expectations of how The Maroon would fare at competitions were set at about the same time in late spring 2013 when I was elected editor-in-chief of all Maroon-branded student media at Loyola.
About a week before the academic year started that fall, my editorial board and I sat in our orientation session to prepare for leadership of The Maroon.
Our adviser asked each of us to think about what we wanted to accomplish at the paper for the semester ahead of us. My immediate and only response was that I wanted to win awards in the first semester – of what I hoped would be two semesters – of my run as editor-in-chief (2013-14) so I would be deemed award-worthy by professionals in my field.
Awards were both what I wanted and what I expected of my team in August of last year. The person I was at the beginning of my editorship is proud of those accomplishments.
However, as my experience progressed, I learned quickly that whichever awards we amassed or categories we would place in was an accomplishment, but not what determined the paper’s success.
What made the newspaper successful to me were mainly three things: how my team worked together, what content we produced and how we packaged that content.
While editor of The Maroon, I invested most of my waking hours in the newspaper. I couldn’t wait to get to the office, and I didn’t want to leave. The thought of my time at The Maroon ending was so devastating that I was sad about graduating college because of it.
As I became more invested in the paper and learned more about what I was doing, the telling characteristics of the legacy I left at The Maroon became more interpersonal goals I reached with my staff than goals of winning awards.
These goals were that my editorial board was thoughtful in the decisions we were making about content and journalism ethics; how we dealt with breaking news and last-minute situations; that our adviser was proud of us; and that my editorial board worked well together as a team.
“The Maroon has a long tradition of excellence in journalism, and this year’s staff did a terrific job upholding that tradition,” said Michael Giusti, senior media adviser of Loyola Student Media, The Maroon/The Wolf. “The dedication and service the staff gives to Loyola year in and year out is humbling.”
Giusti said winning national awards puts The Maroon and Loyola in an elite class nationwide.
“Every student who tours Loyola makes a stop outside the Maroon office and hears about the terrific work our staff does week in and week out,” he said. “Having awards like these to tout makes a terrific case for why Loyola is the premier school for aspiring journalists in the south.”
Reflecting on my time as editor-in-chief, I learned a tremendous amount about things I didn’t think I even needed to learn about – like how to respectfully fire someone, how to deal with sources that don’t want to be named, how to deal with staff members who don’t feel their concerns are being heard, and how to lead a meeting.
My staff fulfilled what I hoped The Maroon would be. They taught me more about working with various personalities and with various situations of ethics than I learned in any class I have ever been in.
Aaren Gordon is a 2014 graduate of Loyola University New Orleans with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.