Thursday, May 8, 2008

Special News, special editions

In this era of instant communication and technology, the "extra" or "special edition" in print journalism has become a thing of the past. It takes very special circumstances for a newspaper staff to come together and produce a special issue. The news event must be of major consequence to the readers of that newspaper and it can't be just another story that will be on the evening news or can be announced on the internet. Texas A&M University-Kingsville had two such stories this past week. The first was the tuberculois (TB) scare. When it was announced that a TAMUK student had the disease and that others may have been infected, no amount of press coverage from Corpus Christi TV stations and newspapers 50 miles away would suffice. Also, in spite of the university's excellent effort communicate with students, some students continued to have questions and natural concerns. It was natural for the university's student newspaper to step forward. When the students at The South Texan saw a line of more than 50 students at the Life Wellness Center for the TB test, the staff decided it was time for a "speical edition" just to get some clarity to the situation. It wasn't enough, but seeing a university or local newspaper cover an event openly adds calm to a crisis. It's been that way since the 19th century when responsible journalists saw that adding interpretation and meaning to an event was the ethical and correct way of reporting a news event. So, the first page of a special tabloid edition of the South Texan was in the works. The second significant event happened miles away in Abilene, Texas, where the TAMUK baseball team was making some big news of its own. The Javelinas, ranked 6th going into the Lone Star Conference baseball tournament, surprised every one in the nation and won the LSC title! Problem is, it was so far away from home and the coverage was so minimal that few realized this historic athletic event had happened. The sports guys on the staff took over and thanks to the work of Sports Information Director Sean Johnson and others, page 2 of the "special edition" was planned out. The special edition was printed in the office printer at The South Texan, to save money. The students distributed the paper to the different areas. Only 1,000 copies were printed (the normal run for our paper is 4,000) and distribution was limited. The first place the paper was distributed was at Mesquite Groove, the annual end-of-year bash, and it was met with enthusiasm from students and some negative remarks from administrators and teachers. Still, it was picked up and read and a sense of calm and pride (because of the different issues covered) ensued from holding the newspaper. The South Texan staff is there for the students, and saw producing this issue as a right and a privilege. The fact that most of this students volunteered for this while we are in finals week is inspiring. No, they didn't miss out on their work. So, as a result, the "Speical Edition" is out. It came about because of special circumstances. It is significant because it is as rare as mosquitoes on a frigid night in the South Texas Brush Country. Congratulations to The South Texan staff, its new editor Juan Carlos Reyes, reporters Rubi Reyes, Kristie Vela and Jaime Gonzalez and Publications Lab Assistant Adriana Garza. KUDOs to Carlos Alvarado, Sabrina Salinas, Kiki Ausbie, Ellie Tamez, Bob Pena and Edwin Vasquez for helping with various areas of production, printing and distribution. Thanks. It's a good way to "finish" the year. We made it, finally.

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