Small team, big results

Every day, the editorial staff at the UK wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? A weekly look behind the scenes.

With only seven editorial staffers and eleven freelancers, the UK covers a university community of more than 34,000 readers. In this week’s At the UK, we explain how exactly we manage that feat.

After two weeks of radio silence, the UK newsroom has come back to life as of Monday morning. Half a dozen of us are tapping away at our keyboards and coming and going from our desks to schedule interviews, set up meetings and answer all the emails.

As journalists, it feels wrong to walk away from your beat for weeks at a time. But during the Christmas break, reading about institutional news was far from the minds of the university students and staff (which are both our primary story subjects and our audience) – not to mention everyone was gone. Not only was there no one to interview: no one was around to read any stories.

Strategic

But even during normal weeks, we have to be strategic about the stories we choose to pursue. Although we have a roster of eleven freelancers with whom we work to cover the university community of nearly 29,000 students and 5,500 staff members, our editorial staff only consists of seven editors, each of whom is indispensible in their own way.

There’s one copy editor, one page designer and web master, one editor-in-chief, one news coordinator, one interim science editor, one office manager, and me, the international editor. At the moment, we also have an intern whose insights into how we can best present ourselves online (and news tips from Reddit) have proved invaluable.

Thanks to two regular translators on whom we rely, English-language stories are now officially 50 per cent of all the content that we produce. The only exception to our fully bilingual rule are the hilarious columns by Gerrit Breeuwsma, not for lack of enjoyment but because it is nearly impossible to accurately translate comedic tone (sorry, non-Dutch speakers).

Collaborate

Although each member of the staff has a specific title and role, we all closely collaborate every day. We brainstorm about how best to word a Facebook post or what the most fitting (and usually the least punny) headline is for a news story. We consult each other for ideas, sources and university experts we can interview for our own stories.

Our proudest example of truly collaborative work over the past year is ‘Robbing the RUG’, co-written by our news coordinator, Peter Keizer, and Dagblad van het Noorden (DvhN) writer Carlien Bootsma about the decades long fraud that had infested the university. Over months of interviews and hundreds of hours of research, in some small way, every member of the UK staff – translators included – chipped in to help connect the dots among certain family members and former colleagues of the man behind the fraud, Hans G.

Once it was written, we edited it, designed the page, translated it, proofread it and published it – together with DvhN – and shared it in our weekly newsletter and on our social media channels. All the interwoven parts before, during and following publication were necessary to make sure the story left no stone unturned and to guarantee that it was read by as many people as possible – and it worked: ‘Robbing the RUG’ was the only story written by a Dutch publication to be included in the reputable newspaper NRC’s top ten long reads of 2016.

Peter and Carlien deserve all the credit for their hard work on this important and impactful article. But we, the staff of the UK, can take pride in seeing that even if our size means that we have to be discerning in our story choices, we can still achieve big results with a small, talented team.

Traci White, international editor

Nederlands

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