Application essay

Most of you know that I am applying to be the 2008 – 2009 editor of the Kernel. This is my application essay, where I am supposed to cover what I will do with this job and why I am the person for the job. It’s not absolutely finished, but it’s close. I just thought I would share.

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The cornerstones are set for the Kentucky Kernel. Excellent stories. Compelling photographs. Great campus coverage. This is a solid newspaper.

But it’s not enough anymore.

Our readership expects more. Because of the 24-hour news cycle, students are turning to the Web for most of their information. The Kernel must adapt to be competitive but also to make sure the truth is communicated to our readers.

In many ways we have already started, and I see nothing but more opportunities ahead for our newspaper.

Opportunities like having the best multimedia pieces in the country produced by our nationally ranked college photographers. And winning a Pacemaker for our new Web site, which I plan to launch in the fall. With the creation of a new projects staff, my goal is to have enterprise stories generated weekly for both the print and online editions. I also want to help organize a fall writers’ workshop. Overall, I want to build on our community, which is already known as a great training camp for aspiring journalists.

But I am not waiting until fall to move in this direction. This semester, I built the Kernel Mixed Media site (www.kernelmixedmedia.com), which we launched in February to provide a landing for our visual content. For the first time, the Kernel is producing video and audio slideshows as part of its daily budget. Before K[mm], our staff produced three or four multimedia presentations once a year during the Picture Kentucky workshop.

Now we have completed one or two in a single day. In a single week, we easily produce more than previous staffs may have in a year. During our launch week, our videos received just shy of two hundred hits, a statistic that’s competitive with professional newspapers.

My Roots
I have been part of the Kernel since arriving at UK in the Fall of 2005, but I have been part of the University of Kentucky my entire life. Raised a Wildcat in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, I knew I would attend UK as early as fourth grade.

After three years here, I know I made the right choice.

In September 2005, I heard Dave LaBelle speak as he showed his photographs to one of my classes. After viewing some of the most compelling photos I had ever seen, I said to myself, “I want to make people feel like he just made me feel.” I took my summer savings from mowing lawns three days a week and bought my first professional camera. I never looked back.

After my first semester at the Kernel, I became assistant photo editor, a job I was proud to have. As I fell in love with photography, I also fell back to the reason I came to UK’s journalism program: writing.

I completed my first story for the Kernel in April of that semester, a piece I wrote and photographed about two men who had lost their vision in adulthood and had turned to Radio Eye, a broadcast reading service for the blind. The feedback from that story showed me that I could use words to make people feel the way Dave made me feel. By combining words
and visuals, I realized I could reach beyond the power of either medium.

Over the next year and a half, I held several positions: photo editor for both the Kernel and the Kentuckian, designer, writer, photographer, and most of all, student.

The only person currently at the Kernel with more experience than I have is Editor Keith Smiley. Beyond any of my classes, he and the other editors I have worked under have influenced me greatly and taught me most of what I know about journalism.

Adam Sichko assigned me my first spot news event. He asked me to drive to Munfordville to cover the damage from an F4 tornado. I was nervous, but he was confident in me, even though I had been at the Kernel only a few months.

Crystal Little was crucial in helping me finish Radio Eye. From her I learned the value of thorough editing and strong leadership.

Through Megan Boehnke I learned the value of community and the significance in reporting the news to people as it is, not as they wish it might be.

Keith Smiley has taught me much of what I know about great photographs and the value of thinking outside of the box.

Watching Sean Rose manage his staff, and seeing how they appreciate him and value his opinion, I recognize the importance of people skills.

One of my best friends at the Kernel, Julie Vachon, constantly and unintentionally reminds me how hard work and dedication pay off with solid papers.

Dave – whom I consider to be one of the greatest “moment” photographers in the country – always says he’s not the smartest or best at anything, but that his success is in his ability to surround himself with talented people. I believe in this philosophy. I have been surrounded by some of the best talent in the country during my three years in this basement, and I am a better journalist for it.

My Vision
I have experienced every aspect of producing a story for a newspaper. I have written several enterprise centerpieces and, most recently, I won second place for best feature story from the Kentucky Press Association. I photographed one of the top four picture stories recognized by the
Associated Collegiate Press for 2006-07, and I designed the third best front page recognized by ACP that year.

But what I bring to the Kernel goes beyond these types of successes, because what I have accomplished has been done by others before and done better. I do not claim to be the best photographer, writer or designer to come out of the Kernel, but my diverse experience in all areas – and my understanding of how these pieces fit together – has prepared me to lead the Kernel into the multimedia age. It’s time for Kernel content to be enhanced. Together, our staff can make our product more dynamic, not only in print but online. And I want to drive that push.

Traditionally, the online presence has functioned as an afterthought to the print edition. That’s not enough. We need a user-friendly site that features fresh and original content daily, unlike the current template site found at www.kykernel.com. I want to build a new – and better -site, modeled after Kernel Mixed Media, that would merge K[mm] and the kykernel sites. The goal would be to upload content throughout the day to drive readers to the site and encourage them to go there for their news first. As of now our hits show a readership that only checks once a day because they know our site is the same throughout the day. If we give them a reason to come back, they will.

Kernel staffers who are graduating tell me they’re upset that they’re going to miss out on this new chapter. They see the value in the multimedia efforts that are coming to be, and they say they’ll miss the energy that this community is creating. Mixed media is the future of journalism, not just the Kernel.

I have spoken with staffers who seem receptive to uploading our content throughout the day. This model should also help our print edition by driving reporters to file their stories sooner, which will help in hitting the midnight deadline for print.

When we launch our new site, it will ultimately mean the death of kernelmixedmedia.com. It doesn’t make sense in the long run to have one site that hosts our visual content and another that hosts the written. But it will mean the birth of a site that, unlike kykernel, will beautifully and simply host our content. Most news sites overload their readers with information and content from too vast of a stage. Our new site will be easy to navigate and combine our visuals and stories together all in one location. As I learned with my first story, the two are most powerful together.

I have yet to see a college Web site that we can’t compete with. The Kernel is one of the best college newspapers in the country; our award-winning staff has what it takes. And as we strive to be competitive on the multimedia front, my goal will be to raise our game on all fronts – in
writing, design, editing and photography.

I am the best candidate to be the 2008-09 editor in chief of the Kernel, but it’s not because I am the best at any one part of the process of putting out the newspaper. I have served the Kernel the best that I know how in every position I have held. And I have stepped up as a leader, particularly in driving the paper’s multimedia efforts while serving as photo editor of the yearbook. As someone who has worked across the lines in various roles, I have bridged many gaps within the newsroom. Next year, I want to be the bridge that leads the paper into the future.

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3 Responses to “Application essay”

  1. […] * How can I become a better copy editor? – I’m not doing so well in my copy editing class. I have a B, but that’s through the grace of Mike Farrell’s scoring system. I would imagine if I keep bombing these style quizes that I’m going to end up dropping my grade. I have a B in there right now, which is nice. Soon I will have to copy edit two 3 hour shifts, which will be a rough experience for me but a necessary one for any guy who thinks he’s going to be an editor of a newspaper. […]

  2. like your vision, brad, i’d follow that. nice essay, and i’m not just saying that b/c i can’t sleep at 4 a.m.

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