New Editor-In-Chief, and the Pressure's On

by Helen Armstrong on November 16, 2015

In the year and a half since crossing a brightly lit stage with my high school diploma gripped in my hand, I’ve done a lot of scary things. I flew across the ocean four times. I stepped into North Korea. I rode on a ferry in Italy that pitched back and forth so badly in a storm that I was sure it was going to plunge me to my salty death. College has shoved me out of my comfort zone several times, and this semester seemed like it might be calmer: I’m staying in Glenside all semester, and I’m taking classes that I like.

But, of course, life never lets me get by that easily. Just when I was settling in to cruise mode, I found myself named Editor-in-Chief of LocoMag, a student-produced online magazine here at Arcadia. I had only joined in February and pushed my way through an awkward first year amid a staff of seniors who seemed cool, confident, and 100% different from me. I was 19, not confident, and inexperienced. The only topic I could think to write articles about was my London experience.

Not only did I make the grade, but with most of the staff graduating, I would be the only one left who had any previous experience. Thus, my meteoric rise by default to Editor-in-Chief.

The staff is all new this semester, which means I’ve had to do a lot of explaining about how everything works. Now I know how my editor must have felt when I first started. Here I was now, an editor, I worried that none of my staff would submit any articles. More than that, though, I worried that I wouldn’t be a good leader. Would I try too hard to make it fit my vision for what it should be, and alienate the rest of the staff? Or would I be too lax and risk no one taking me seriously as a leader?

I went for approachable and friendly, but dedicated. I didn’t want Loco to feel like a job to anyone, so I tried to be high-energy and motivating. My goal was to model the former Editor-in-Chief of my high school newspaper, whom I loved working under. She had been firm, but fun, and made me feel that my writing was valued. Emulating her, I made sure to listen to everyone’s ideas and give positive feedback as well as constructive criticism. This worked wonders for opening up my staff. At first, they were quiet and barely responsive, like I was speaking to the dead. Now, they share their ideas without inhibition and joke around with each other and me at meetings. I look forward to Monday afternoon meetings now.

Still, producing the first issue was stressful since I was the only one who knew how to do everything.  My days were filled with late nights, answering lots of texts and emails, and prodding staff to make deadlines. And I admit to wondering at times, What’s the point of all this work? Where’s my thanks? I never want to be Editor-in-Chief again!

But my staff and I enjoyed the exhilaration of hitting the Publish button on all of the posts that we had slaved over, and seeing the view count go up over the next few days, the thanks I had wondered about came as did my gratitude to my new staff. Being Editor-in-Chief is a stressful job, sure, but I love it. I love leading a staff and being accountable for other people who depend on me. Just like athletes love the rush of training hard for something and getting the results they’ve worked for, I love working tirelessly to produce an issue and then sending it out into the world to be read and appreciated.

Before I every meeting, I remind myself that I’m not here to be Dictator Editor, but rather, more like the first Editor-in-Chief I ever had, the one who made me feel valued and talented, and, most importantly, let me have a good time.