Sometimes being in charge brings twists and turns.
During my time at the CU Sentry, I held positions of power where my voice carried significant weight. One year, as Editor in Chief, I was literally in charge of the entire operation. And while I loved and cherished every single moment—from making editorial decisions to hiring fresh perspectives to the “from the editor” above my weekly column—there were some times that were harder than others.
When it comes to newspapers, the Editor in Chief has a lot of editorial responsibility tacked onto their name and title. While praise gets passed onto the staff as a whole (it is far from a one-woman show), criticism typically goes straight to the person with the title. If anything went seriously wrong, the EIC is the person to take the fall.
It’s part of the job. And we all accept that going into a new year.
To keep us honest (plus give us helpful feedback and guidance and ideas), our faculty adviser would join the editorial staff for weekly Editorial Meetings. We would go through the paper page-by-page, with each section editor giving their take on that week; we’d talk about the successes, any troubles, our opinions, and ideas for upcoming issues.
At one time during the year, I started taking over the design of the Sentry’s Backend section. Typically, this space was dedicated to a random assortment, depending on the kind of coverage we had at our disposal that week. I liked to keep things light, usually by including a punny comic strip or an assortment of puzzles. We’d also include a few pieces of internal news or an Instagram picture or club sports feature here, if they came up.
One week, we had absolutely nothing. Zero. Nada. Zip. No content for me to easily plug into the Backend page. With a blank canvas, I started to think of ideas that might be relevant to the student body.
I eventually stumbled across Twitter, and the concept of a trending page or hashtag. There was my brilliant idea: to make a round up of all the trending topics on social media over different areas like national news, politics, pop culture, and sports.
And while the idea might’ve been alright, my execution was horrible. Actually, that might’ve been okay, except for one major detail:
I royally screwed up the name.
That’s right: I managed to name this section a pretty offensive word. It was innocent—I quickly typed in a set of playful words that I thought sounded complimentary (who doesn’t love a good alliteration?!) and fun. If I saw that on a page, I thought, I’d read it.
Well, so would anyone that understands that “tw*t” is indeed a very vulgar word for a woman’s genitals, usually used in the UK. Oops.
Here, perhaps, is the funniest part: nearly every pair of editorial eyes in the newsroom saw my mistake, and did nothing about it. No one crossed it out, marked it up, or even questioned if it was a good idea.
And they weren’t all innocent, either.
When we got to the Backend review during our weekly editorial meeting, the truth was revealed.
I was kindly told why my name was a giant mistake (my poor faculty adviser read the bolded headline in disbelief, and asked if I was hoping for an early April Fool’s Day Issue), which was followed by a release of giggles.
The editorial staff knew. Those sneaky editors wanted to see it in print, and see if I would ever come to my senses after a Google search. They might’ve felt a little guilty, but overall the joke went pretty smoothly.
I wasn’t fired or sued by an aggravated reader or the campus preacher, so I think it blew over pretty successfully. I had to admit, it was a solid self-appointed prank. I was shaking my head for weeks on production night, and it still brings a red-faced smile to my face.
My advice? Even when you go down in newspaper faux pas history, don’t worry too much and don’t take being in charge too seriously. When the situation calls for it, laugh it off.
And, if you’re ever in a bad mood, go ahead and spare a chuckle for the infamous Twitter Twatter debacle of 2017.