The three-year-old University of Alaska Faribanks (UAF) newspaper "The Sun Star" doesn't have a staffing problem. It has a budget problem. “We have a hard time maintaining a large staff because of our limited budget,” said Curt Merrill, managing editor who has been with the paper for the entire three years, starting as the circulation assistant, delivering papers before taking a news writing class. When the layout editor left in the middle of last spring semester, he said he “took over in a pinch.” Now, he's the managing editor. The paper doesn't even use color in its print version. “It's just cost-prohibitive,” Merrill said.
To get online with their budget problems, the paper signed up with College Publisher, which has helped tremendously. Now, their online issues contain almost everything in the print editions, as well as providing forums, polls and chat options.
Most of the current staff has been working at the paper less than a year. Two people have been there a year and a half, and Merrill's going on three years.
Merrill said his biggest challenge, as editor is being the “hard ass boss.”
“Sometimes I need to come down on people for not meeting deadlines and that is difficult for me, personally.”
The best thing about working for a student newspaper is the experience, both journalistically and managerially, Merrill said. “I've learned a lot about dealing with people who have complaints about stories or want to see other stories. I spend most of my time doing layout. That's about half of my work week on Sundays.”
I don't write a lot, but I like doing shorter news stories. Some students enjoy science articles or long feature stories, which is great because it gives the paper plenty of variety.
Merrill can't think of any legal issues that have come up except for one. “We used to run a column called “Farrago,” which was a collection of odd stories from all over. Because of the nature of the column, a lot of News of the Weird clips were included, but since that's a syndicated column, we weren't sure if we could use portions without paying, so we stopped before it became a serious issue.”
This article was conducted through an e-mail interview.