Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How College Publisher, Scott Sicko, and the Huffington Post totally made my day as executive editor as it looks at 7:08 pm on April 27, 2010. But, as today exemplified, you never know when it might change.

If you didn't think that TNH staff members put in long hours, consider this: Yesterday (Tuesday), after putting together the 48th issue of The New Hampshire with the rest of TNH’s staff, I (Thomas Gounley, the new executive editor of TNH) got barely any sleep, battled with College Publisher to figure out how to fix the paper’s website, and found out that one of the lead stories in today’s issue was completely obsolete two hours after the issue came out around campus.

And it goes down as one of the best days of my life. College Publisher, Scott Sicko, and the Huffington Post’s College section totally made my day.

Here’s how it happened:

We finished the paper at 2:15 a.m. last night (aka- this morning), a fairly respectable time. I stayed in the newsroom finishing a paper for a class until 3:30 a.m., then returned to my dorm and slept from 3:45 a.m. to 6:15 a.m. I woke up, showered and was back in the newsroom at 7:03 a.m. I spent the next two hours finishing some other projects that were also due in my morning classes in addition to attempting to figure out how to fix TNH’s website, which was warped for some reason that was unknown to me at the time.

I had classes from 9:40 to noon. At noon, I returned to the newsroom and put in two calls to representatives from College Publisher, which hosts the website for TNH along with dozens of other college newspapers. After a while of toying around with the website, things were back to normal. It turns out that the code for one of our articles was wrong, which was throwing off the whole site. Given that TNH’s web presence is critical to our non-UNH-based readers, I was glad things were all set.

Now you need to know a little about what exactly is contained in the 48th issue of The New Hampshire (the 4th issue I’ve been in charge of as executive editor). On the front page, we have a story about former UNH tight end Scott Sicko turning down free-agent offers from five NFL teams to focus on graduate school. It’s a story that got national attention; it was the lead story on the other day. Traditionally, the sports section comprises the final three pages of TNH, but I decided to pilfer the Sicko article (along with an article about two former UNH players who did sign with NFL teams) to put on the front. It’s not often that UNH football is national news.

So around noon I (as @thenewhampshire) tweeted Huffington Post’s College section suggesting they consider the article (which was written by Brandon, one of our sports editors) for the site. (If you don’t haven’t checked out the section before, it covers college-related news, a lot of which comes from college newspapers through partnerships they’ve made with the papers). The exchange went like this:

@huffpostcollege Former UNH tight end Scott Sicko passing over NFL offers seems like perfect fit for you guys

@thenewhampshire you’re right! thanks!

I was pumped. The New Hampshire has only had one other story that was featured on the section, so it’s a rare privilege. Though I hadn’t written the story, I felt that it being featured said something positive about the paper and our staff, and that was good enough for me. I sort of felt like a grandparent that is proud of their grandchild. I hadn’t actually done much to contribute to the article’s success, but, indirectly maybe I had. Between that and getting the website all figured out, I felt like I'd put in a solid day; I was happy.

I spent another hour and a half in the newsroom finishing a paper for an English (yeah, occasionally we do things that actually relate to our classes), approving comments on, and doing general editorial tasks.

When I went to lunch at 2 pm, I thought the storm had passed. It turns out it hadn’t even begun.

After lunch, I turned on my computer in my dorm room and what do I see? SCOTT SICKO CHANGED HIS MIND AND DECIDED TO SIGN AS A FREE AGENT WITH THE DALLAS COWBOYS!

I was stunned; I hadn’t seen that coming at all. Our sports editor had just talked to Sicko yesterday for the story that was on the front of TNH (we’re pretty sure that only he and a reporter for the Albany Times-Union, Sicko’s hometown paper, actually talked to him about his original decision to refuse the NFL offers; other newspapers around the country just quoted what he told the Times-Union), and he hadn’t said a thing about signing with the Cowboys. And now the front page of the paper, which had just appeared in print form across the campus starting two hours earlier, had a story that was obsolete.

Oh, did I mention that Huffington Post-College had gotten around to putting TNH’s original article story up on their site?

Yep, front page and center. No big deal. Here’s the actual article (including the shout-out to TNH):

As I conferred with our sports editor via facebook chat, I updated TNH’s facebook and twitter accounts with the breaking news. This went on @thenewhampshire‘s twitter at about 2:50 p.m.

BREAKING NEWS: Scott Sicko changes mind, signs free-agent deal with cowboys after all #UNH

I checked Huffington Post College again, and they still had the old story up. So I alerted them to the development (It turns out that they already knew and just hadn’t gotten the page totally updated yet, but I figured it was the least I could do). That led to this exchange:

@huffpostcollege Ah, the nature of the news. UNH’s Scott Sicko changed mind, just signed free-agent deal with Cowboys.

@thenewhampshire we can’t believe it!

@huffpostcollege We def didn’t see that coming. And now we have 5000 copies of TNH that appeared on campus two hours ago that are obsolete.

@thenewhampshire ha! one more strike against print.

By that time, the article was updated on the Huffington Post. (And yes, I took screen shots as this all happened. It seemed like a day that was going to turn into a blog post. Plus, I wanted records of our brief glory to be preserved for posterity.) Here is the updated story and page from them:

Unfortunately, the original article was still the lead story on It was 3 pm, and I had class at 3:30 pm. So I ran to the newsroom and updated the headline and teaser on the main page to reflect Sicko’s signing. Brandon said he would piece together an initial report and he put that on the website while I was in class. (It got out at five. Those were some of the longest minutes of my life). When I joined him in the newsroom, we updated facebook and twitter with his new report. He’s currently meeting with the football team to expand the coverage so we can get a full report on the website later tonight(it will also run in the paper this Friday).

Which means that it is now 7 p.m. I have been up for 16 hours today, and the vast majority of that has been in the newsroom. Nevertheless, this has probably been one of the most exciting days of my life. From finally understanding some of the inner workings of College Publisher to the excitement upon hearing that we’d have a story up on Huffpo to Brandon and I simultaneously freaking out on facebook chat to sending out ten billion updates as The New Hampshire on facebook and twitter (which is soooooo much fun) to UNH being in the national spotlight, its been a solid day.

At first I was annoyed with Scott Sicko for making TNH obsolete after being out for two hours. But hey, that’s what the website is for, right?

So thank you, Scott Sicko. Thank you, College Publisher. Thank you, Huffington Post. You guys completely made my day.

11 p.m. update: Brandon managed to contact Sicko and got a complete story together, which we put online an hour or so ago. Mad props to him for everything he’s done today as we scrambled to cover the breaking news. It really was The New Hampshire at its finest.

Note: This is adapted from a blog post that originally appeared on the executive editor's personal blog.

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