Editor-in-Chief Rachel Fradette has experienced a full academic year of managing the newsroom at The State News. She sat down for a conversation with Claire Moore — the incoming Editor-in-Chief for the summer — on what she has learned in the leadership role and what advice she has to offer.
Next week, I’ll be taking over as Editor-in-Chief. Your first day on the job as Editor-in-Chief, what was it like?
I think I was feeling the weight of the expectations. I had seen a lot of different Editor-in-Chiefs do the job. In my time here, I’ve seen three, and then I’ve known a lot of other people who had done it as well, just through networking and other things, but … I knew how much it mattered and I knew that my time had officially started that day. I think that’s what really made me think about it — that it was now my time to make decisions and to lead the newsroom and help grow this place that I’ve been a part of since I was a freshman.
What are the most useful things you learned in your first few weeks on the job?
Omar Sofradzija, who is our editorial adviser, told me during my first week that no matter what — day, night, high pressure, low pressure — your staff, the people you lead, are always watching. What I really noticed in those first few weeks is that people were watching. I had to be sure to keep myself in check and to keep my shoulders back and to lead in a way that I can inspire them and I can show them what they can do.
What’s it like designing a paper? Like, pitching stories, editing them and then designing the paper.
It’s a process that I think all of the editors are learning so much from doing it, because you feel this sense of dedication and pride to your print product, because you want your audience to pick it up. It’s also our face. It’s The State News. But when you look at the paper, that’s also a representation of the voice of the campus. That’s something that I really focused on this year — the importance of a cover.
What was the craziest breaking news moment that you had this year?
That’s very easy. Jan. 24, 2018, was the most wild day of my life … It was the last day of Nassar’s Ingham County Court sentencing. Like six hours later, after Trustee (Dianne) Byrum called for Lou Anna K. Simon to resign, I was working on a story with Madison O’Connor, who’s the campus editor. We had a source that was willing to go on record and tell us that Simon and the Board of Trustees were making a plan for the end of the week to have her step down. We were the first news organization to break it.
What advice do you have for me?
Rome was definitely not built in a day. It’s a very, very tough job. You start at the beginning and you don’t know anything, and you try your best and you work your way up. By the end, when you’re finally starting to figure out how to do it all, you’re done. You really have to enjoy the ride. You have to make decisions, and they won’t all be right. You have to apologize if you make a mistake. You have to own your mistakes and learn from them once you’ve made them … I think what’s most important is that you have to build a staff that will rally around you when it is convenient, and especially when it is not.
What was your favorite story this year?
I don’t think I could pick a favorite story because I think that we produced tremendous work … It would be too difficult. There are stories that I could pick out that I thought were incredible and really well-reported.
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