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The Story behind 'The Signal'

by Hilarey Wojtowicz

It’s 10:30 p.m. and time for a run to the C-store again.

The newsroom in the basement of the Brower Student Center is filled with the sounds of late night television, computer keyboards, and laughter.

Every Monday night, while the rest of campus is asleep, the editors of The College of New Jersey’s (TCNJ) school newspaper The Signal are awake and working hard to put together another issue of the award winning paper for Wednesday’s release as always.

Yes, they are tired, probably sleep deprived, but these young journalists love what they are doing and will never forget the memories, experience, and the infamous all-nighters they shared during their college years with The Signal.

“It’s been a lot of work, but even into the early morning I have always enjoyed it,” said senior Journalism major Bobby Olivier, the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper. “When it’s over, I’m probably going to be very sad.”

The Signal is the student-run newspaper on TCNJ’s campus. It covers stories ranging from sports and features to straight news and opinions. Each section has a distinct role that, when combined, creates a newspaper that has a little bit for everyone on campus.

“It’s the only way I stay appraised about things on campus,” said junior history and art history double major Kathryn Albanese-DeMair.

Over the years it has developed into one of the most honorable and prestigious college newspapers in the state. However, it has come a long way since it first began way back in 1885.

The Signal began as an activity for students who were “just putting out a school paper,” said Bob Cole, the founder of the Journalism program at the College.

Before Professor Cole was able to fully establish the Journalism program, The College of New Jersey only offered one credited course a semester, if not per year. Cole began the Journalism major in 1973 when he decided to expand the program into a series of professional requirements for those interested in the journalism field.

While speaking with Cole over the phone, he explained the way the field of journalism has actually changed and advanced over the years, here at the College.

“Ethics was not something students knew about in the old days,” Cole said. “We began teaching them about ethics and the way to use them in their pursuit of stories and research for the paper.”

The Signal has come a long way since the Journalism program started back in the 70s and from its birth in the late 19th Century. The Signal placed first in ‘General Excellence’ in the New Jersey Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest for four-year colleges the past two years.

It is a well-known paper around the state and among the college newspapers of New Jersey, but what many people do not know is the amount of work and effort that goes into taking this paper from the drawing board in the basement of the Student Center to the fresh ink pages that students read every day.

“The process begins a week before any pages are actually made,” Olivier said. “We storyboard for the upcoming week on Sunday. Writers have until Friday at 5 p.m. to submit stories, unless they have a reason to submit it later. We start layout on Sunday afternoon, work on it all day on Monday and finish early Tuesday morning. It is distributed Tuesday night.”

Once printed, the papers are distributed to students on late Tuesday night or Wednesday mornings and the process begins all over again on the following Sunday evening.

The editors pour their hearts into this newspaper and the long Monday evenings are infamously associated with The Signal.

The editors may be sleep deprived, but it is obvious that they love what they do at The Signal. Nevertheless, the job can still be stressful and overwhelming. It is difficult to keep up with the hard work of the paper, while dealing with the stresses of writers and readers. Many students aren’t even aware of how much time and effort is put into making the paper every week.

“I always look forward to Mondays, and I know that what we are doing is very important, but sometimes, after I am there for 15-plus hours and want to kill myself, I can really hate it and how much work it takes,” Olivier said.

Olivier even went on to explain how, despite all their hard work, readers feel no remorse in speaking negatively of The Signal.

“Generally, I hear more good things than bad, but we do get some criticism as well, much like any publication no matter how big or small,” Olivier said. “I feel that if our peers continue to pick the paper up, they must not hate it too much.”

Students are allowed to e-mail their comments and feedback to The Signal every week. The editors also try to respond thoroughly to their audience and to really take their thoughts into consideration. Students around campus may offer negative feedback, yet it can only help the school paper to become a better source for news.

Sophomore economics major Tyler Pfundheller believes The Signal’s flaws distract from its true potential.

“Cop Shop could be less redundant,” Pfundheller said. “And some of the other stories have a tendency to be biased.”

David McNally, a senior biomedical engineering major, also finds The Signal “repetitive.” He is able to say with experience that The Signal could improve in certain ways.

“They could find more to write about on campus,” McNally said. “The little things that often go unnoticed around campus might actually be of interest to students, yet they don’t know about them.”
These opinions are only constructive criticism for those at The Signal and the feedback will only continue to benefit the paper.

However, many students continue to support The Signal for its positives, as well.

Sophomore math major Sarah Weinfield reads the paper whenever it comes out.

“It’s an overall good newspaper.” Weinfield said, “They cover stories well and there is always a wide range of articles.”

Over time, the support from the readers and their input will help The Signal to be a success. Much of the paper’s future is based on the readers and the audience that the writers and editors are reaching out to through the news and stories in The Signal.

The future of The Signal looks bright and many expect it to continue expanding. Journalism Professor Donna Shaw, also the advisor of The Signal, believes whole-heartedly in the future of the College’s paper.

“The College continues to attract some of the region’s best and brightest young journalists,” Shaw said. “Plus, the paper is making a good transition from paper to the Internet, including use of social media. That type of experience will serve the students well when they graduate and go off into the professional world.”

The Signal’s future isn’t the only thing that is looking positive. The students who are a part of the paper will also benefit greatly in the future. The Signal is a great way for students to get first-hand experience working for a newspaper – something that all Journalism/Professional Writing majors will benefit from in the years after their time at The College of New Jersey.

“It has completely shaped my college experience,” Olivier said. “I have learned more about journalism at The Signal than in any class I’ve taken here.”

The prestigious periodical at the College isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Despite the low economy, and the shift towards online journalism, The Signal is a staple to the college community.

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