When The Beacon staff was invited to a newspaper roundtable discussion held by Media Mates at the Harvard Club in Manhattan, excitement was immediately generated.
Staffers Erik Squire, Ashley Berry, Rebekah Marin, Alex Brooks, and I made our six-hour trek down to participate in the gathering. The Harvard Club proved to be an incredibly regal establishment, and upon entering, we all basked in the VIP feelings – with a laugh.
Fifteen colleges, including Philadelphia’s Temple University, New Jersey’s Seton Hall University, and Massachusetts’s Bristol Community College attended the discussion, and they all had created a small mountain of newspapers on a table for everyone to examine. The Beacon, needless to say, helped augment the size of the mountain. According to the Media Mates host, SMCC arrived with the most participants of any of the colleges – something she was impressed to acknowledge and something we were proud to hear.
Some informal conversations took place first, with many of us “cross-pollinating” to introduce ourselves to each other and shoot the breeze as we warmed up for the real business. Finally, it all kicked off with an introduction speech from a Media Mates representative, who then introduced an adviser from Temple University, John DiCarlo.
The adviser gave a lengthy speech and referenced the famous “Acres of Diamonds” speech from Russell Conwell, Temple’s founder, which set the stage for Temple’s mission statement, as well as the Media Mates newspaper gathering. The “Acres of Diamonds” speech revolved around that which is immediately available to us – sometimes “in our own backyard” as one might say – bears the potential to be transformed into something great. There are “acres of diamonds” right in front of our faces for us to grasp.
A student from Temple, Justin Discigil, the advertising manager, also took the podium to deliver a speech. He mentioned he had written his speech on the 45-minute ride to Manhattan, and spoke about the “Three Cs” of advertising for a newspaper – confidence, competition, and compensation. Upon completion, we all had lunch and dove into the meat of the discussions.
Each table bore a theme for the discussions and had a host facilitating the conversations, similar to SMCC’s Community Café event. One table, for example, served a dual purpose and was labeled, “Online vs. Print” and “Social Media.” Another table was labeled, “Struggles of a Community College Newspaper.” This helped keep the discussions topic-specific for efficacy.
Learning the business, dynamics, and approach to newspapers from other colleges proved to be incredibly intriguing, which fostered some spirited discussions. For example, The Beacon publishes every two weeks, and lands on the shelves every Tuesday. Temple University, who needs to generate $125,000 annually to operate, is able to publish in print every Tuesday and daily online, and distributes 5,000 copies on those Tuesdays. Another fun fact was that Seton Hall’s student newspaper has been in existence for over ninety years. This caught us off guard, and we were all impressed to be in company of a newspaper with noteworthy tenure.
We also delighted in hearing both heartening compliments and constructive criticism. We received tremendously positive feedback pertaining to our design, writing, ad layout, and photography, with some of the criticism leaning towards inordinate text content. Tracy Furtado, Faculty Adviser of Bristol Community College’s “The Observer” newspaper relentlessly extolled the appearance of our newspaper, which made us incredibly pleased and proud to hear.
Furthermore, The Beacon walked away with some beneficial tips from the other colleges for how to operate more prosperously, such as how to generate readership, retain contributors, and how to get students involved. Other colleges seemed to benefit from our presence as well, with ideas being jotted down by all parties.
Overall The Beacon’s time in New York City proved to be not just beneficial but enjoyable. Walking away with new ideas and new connections – not to mention a flattered ego balanced by the constructive criticism – made the trip worthwhile, and we look forward to seeing how we can implement newly discovered strategies put forth by the participating colleges.
One final note: The Beacon plans to return for Media Mates newspaper round table discussion, round two, in November!