Michelle S. Lee ’16
Spring of 2013 was a pivotal semester for me – finishing up my first year at college, discovering a love for the government and economics departments and, most of all, joining The Sophian. I was instantly attracted to the paper, not only for its journalistic purposes, but also for its potential to facilitate discussions on campus. Three years, 66 issues and six different editor positions later, I am passing down my title as Editor-in-Chief. I’ve had the pleasure of working under three very different EICs, and after being one myself, am excited to pass on the reins to our next lead editor. In developing strong bonds with Smith students I otherwise may not have met, and being part of and leading a team I otherwise would not have ever been a part of, I’ve watched The Sophian grow into something quite spectacular.
The paper has come a long way from where it was three years ago. Each year has been met with increasing enthusiasm and creativity from our editorial board, which has strengthened the paper’s content and autonomy immensely. We carved out a social media space for The Sophian in the modern age of communication, beginning with our Facebook and, later, our Instagram. Upon hearing feedback about our paper’s layout, we adapted new practices so our design read more fluidly and natural to the reader. We moved from our long-time office in Capen Annex into our new office in King basement last winter, and we have since made it home.
This year we implemented several changes as well. My associate editors, Veronica Brown ’16 and Anya Gruber ’16, and I held meetings over the summer to analyze feedback from last year’s editorial board and make steps forward with staff structure, recruitment and readership. Much of it was behind the scenes, including revising the The Sophian charter, defining editor roles and responsibilities and directing content composition for our sections. Acknowledging the increased use of media engagement online, we made adjustments to our website to be more accessible to readers. Our Facebook presence has expanded by 20 percent since last March, and it has been a critical instrument in connecting students and alumnae alike to our articles and operations.
Offline, we leapt forward in the new schoolyear with a spatial change in our front-page design, courtesy of our layout editor, Hayley Reifeiss ’18. Most pertinent to the paper itself, we revamped our concept map for the Features section, giving it a distinct identity from the News section. We have been tabling at the Campus Center every Thursday to expand and more directly connect with our readership, and we have been experimenting with alternate forms of communication with our writers, both online and in person. We held chalking campaigns in the beginning of the year and general interest meetings in the fall and spring semesters. We developed workshops for copy editing, photography and layout design led by our respective editors, encouraging interested contributors to participate freely. We extended procedural steps in copy editing and layout proofing to maximize accuracy in reporting, while simultaneously shortening total production times.
The Sophian, particularly this past school year, has been incredible because of the shared role played by every editor and writer on the team. Carolyn Brown ’16 will also be passing her position over to a new editor after serving for two years as Photo Editor. Our copy editor Marie Wilken ’18 has been instrumental in spearheading copy editing sessions. Behind the scenes, our web editor, Thu Trinh ’16, and assistant web editors, Maria Xu ’17 and Ji Won Chung ’19, have streamlined and archived several years of content in just a few months. Managing Editor Nina Xue ’18 has, quite literally, managed our paper’s budget and advertising over the past year. And of course, without our writing section editor we wouldn’t have covered nearly as many stories as we have – thank you to our news editor Katherine Hazen ’18, features editor Hira Humayun ’18, arts editor Becca Damante ’17, opinions editor Nora Turriago ’16 and sports editor Raegan Stokes ’19, as well as the assistant editors, for your dedication to the paper week after week.
Despite our growth, there is still much left to be done. The Sophian always has room to expand and adapt. Not only during my time as editor-in-chief, but also my experience as a student of color, I have become aware of the need for diverse staff composition. Smith sparked a necessary conversation in the wake of race-related protests this past fall. Exploring how the student newspaper shall and will navigate inclusivity is a commitment I look forward to seeing improve with extended engagement on recruiting staff and representation of issues of importance to students of color.
The Sophian is a newspaper, but it is also a student newspaper. It is, by definition, produced for students, but it runs wholly on the contributions of Smithies who are also juggling full-time academic schedules. In this respect, I am wildly proud of this year’s editorial board, as well as our writers and photographers. Still, The Sophian can grow only with the participation of the student body. Despite a series of challenges, some of which have aged me beyond the ripe old age of a college senior, I still believe in The Sophian’s purpose and its potential. It has become a quintessential part of my growth at Smith, and I have high hopes that it will increasingly become a part of the collective student body.