Editorials, News, Opinions

Letter from the editor: A change in the Daily Forty-Niner’s work culture

This letter includes a statement from Ashley Ramos and Madalyn Amato and is a response to the JPR Students for Change letter.

Past

In the spring 2020 semester, I enrolled into the JOUR 310 class, Reporting for the Daily 49er. This class was my first introduction to the student-run newspaper. At the time, 310 students had to do newsroom shifts, and they made me uncomfortable. It’s fair to note that I am not the biggest fan of socializing with people I do not know, but I try to step out of my comfort zone.

The advisers had prefaced that the newsroom can be a bit “cliquey.” Maybe it was a case of the placebo effect, but sitting in that newsroom I was reminded of the same clammy feelings I had in high school approaching the “popular kids.”

To say the least, I found my initial experience to be unwelcoming. I truly did not want anything to do with the 49er. Soon after, it was announced that Madalyn Amato was going to be the next editor in chief. Amato was one of the editors I worked with during the spring 2020 semester. She was straight forward and understanding. Regardless of having a not-so-great experience in JOUR 310, knowing that Amato was going to be EIC made me want to apply for a staff position.

Although we were fully online, Amato managed to make the environment welcoming and I ended up working with fantastic people. I remember being so excited about having my first journalism job. I ran the publication’s Instagram account from August 2020 until February 2021.

During that time, the Instagram account had been called out for three things: First, a project editor left after feeling like they had to “ fight the racism within the Daily 49er.” Second, backlash from the community for a tone deafness of posting a feature for a softball alumni that is now an LAPD commander during the time of the Kenosha shootings, Black Lives Matter movement and Defund the Police movement. Third, a post promoting a letter to the editor that thanked President Trump for his time in office and claimed the Black Lives Matter protesters “hated the country.”

During each of those experiences, it was hard to not feel at fault. I had to learn to detach myself from the paper and as my own person. The letter to the editor in a way was a last straw for me. The way the Instagram comments were fueled with hate and distaste was something I couldn’t bear anymore nor did I like reading.

Since I had to see first hand how our audience reacted I learned to listen to the community and voice how I personally felt. Due to these mistakes EIC Amato added a new position to the paper, community engagement manager. I applied in order to facilitate positive change. This past March I started working a new position at the newspaper.

Within the first week of working the position, I was put in a group chat where I was first told about the JPRStudents for Change Letter. Once the document was shared, I realized that my position was created to respond to crises like this. I had met on Zoom with the individuals in the group chat and listened to their experiences with editors, peers and advisers.

After that meeting I was honestly not sure what to do, but I knew that I needed to stay on staff to help make a difference. I signed the letter because I believed in the solutions the letter suggested. Although the letter has been a lot to process it inspired me to enact the change I want to see.

Present

As I write this letter I have worked 30 days as editor in chief. I’ve spent the last month creating job descriptions and updating the handbook, while keeping in mind hours, school, burnout and compensation. I’ve learned a lot about the functions of the paper and the pitfalls of the paper.

Like most businesses, the publication’s problems are like an onion, the more you pull back the layers– the stinker it gets and the more you want to cry. It’s only been five weeks and there have been setbacks. But I know these issues can be improved with patience, compromise and planning. After a long day of working I remembered a saying my track coach would tell me, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Although news is fast paced, I will not rush things. I believe in quality over quantity.

As we have slowly begun rebuilding the publication’s internal structure, we will continue to keep in mind the experiences others have had in the newsroom. It’s important to remember the past. But it is even more important to do the work that will create a better future. I am committed to creating a workplace culture that is welcoming, understanding, diverse and accepting to the team and community.

As part of the restructuring this summer, my team and I are clarifying job descriptions, creating a robust employee handbook, putting processes in place to create better checks and balances on content, restructuring compensation for each position to be more in-line with the workload, adding new positions to help alleviate editor workload and increasing training for our student staff. These are just some of the beginning steps to creating a better work environment. More changes are coming later on.

I am also committed to repairing relationships with the campus, clubs, personnel or departments that have been hurt or harmed by the 49ers actions in the past.

After this letter is published we will begin hiring our editorial team. I know that the environment of the past was unwelcoming and it may seem daunting to apply. I hear you and know where you’re coming from and that’s why I am committed to making the newsroom a better environment.

The Daily Forty-Niner was created to be a voice for the students and we want to make sure we are doing just that. While we try to talk to as many people as possible, it’s only with your help that we can truly reach everyone. We want to hear from you! Please connect with us at [email protected] so that we can begin the conversation.

-Ashley Ramos, Editor-in-Chief

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