Butkowski: Student media teaches lessons through successes, failures

The Lamron is almost 100 years old. If I could talk to the first editor-in-chief—a student at Geneseo Normal School in 1922—we’d probably have to spend awhile searching for common ground. I can hardly imagine how students put together The Lamron 93 years ago, but I know my weekly struggles with faulty digital recorders and website updates would be science fiction to the founding EIC.

There is one area where I’m certain we’d agree, even across the generational void. Geneseo student reporters have addressed prohibition, the State University of New York system, the Vietnam War and rising tuition costs over the years, but all the while, The Lamron has remained an editorial experiment.

Rarely does everything go as planned for a student-run newspaper. Sometimes, the Thursday issue is not even close to what I envisioned on Monday. As a four-year member of The Lamron, even in the face of challenges, I know this paper has taught me a lot more than just Associated Press Style.

I learned that the stories we mean to publish in the paper are important, but the stories we didn’t mean to tell—the ones that arise from our mistakes as students—are transformative. Occasional post-publication typos and botched interviews have meaning because this is a training ground—not just for journalism, but also media literacy and ethical behavior. Whether we make them on typewriters or with Adobe InDesign, mistakes are one of the most important parts of The Lamron’s identity.

Student newspapers at wealthier private schools sometimes have faculty directors who play an in-depth editorial role or offer academic credit to their members. They aren’t always open to every student who has an interest or an opinion. Printed on sumptuously thicker paper with brighter color, these flashy papers have their benefits. They probably make fewer mistakes. While a bigger, fancier office would be nice, I want to reclaim The Lamron’s mess-ups. I’m proud of them.

In speaking with other students both at Geneseo and on other campuses, I’ve come to learn that it’s relatively common to hate your student newspaper—even for those who haven’t ever read it. “It’s not good enough; it’s unprofessional,” my friends say. The thing is, student newspapers aren’t made primarily to be professional. They’re here to teach us how to share information.

I am overjoyed that for the past four years, I’ve had the opportunity to mess up and triumph—sometimes simultaneously—in a publically scrutinized 20-page publication with a group of incredibly intelligent and hard-working people. I’ve made some mistakes, learned from them and moved on.

The Lamron has also continuously improved and built upon itself. I wouldn’t have it any other more “professional” way. I’m thankful to the people who complimented my work and to those who criticized it. If no one complained, I wouldn't have grown nearly as much.

Even though the 24 Lamrons I worked on this year were just a blip in a century-long history, I know the fabric of this paper will remain perpetually the same. I look forward to next year’s e-board—and the next 100 e-boards—with excitement as they use technology I can’t begin to fathom to make wonderful mistakes that I can’t even imagine.