As we approach the end of 2015, we celebrate our year as Empire Times editors and all that the role has entailed. What exactly does it mean to be an editor, you ask? It’s a whole lot more than just editing! Take a read, enjoy our final hurrah and learn why saying goodbye is going to be so hard.
Having the title of ‘editor’ is a pretty tremendous understatement for what myself, my fellow editors, previous editors, and future editors have and will do for Empire Times. The role of editor not only involves the obvious—editing student’s writing—but it encapsulates pretty much everything else to do with the magazine (you name it, we do it). From the get go, you’re given an office and told to make a magazine. No words could have prepared for me for the experience of being an editor and if someone could have articulated it back in 2014 when I first applied for the job, I’d have thought they were being overzealous. Perhaps it’s because I’m addicted to being high strung from stress, or probably more likely it’s because I love being part of something so creative. Regardless, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
The vibrant student community we are part of is something to be celebrated and within this role I’ve come to know and love many students and staff I’d otherwise never have met. Being given the opportunity to provide a platform for the many talented students we have at this university is a great feeling. We are surrounded by passionate, creative and opinionated peers who have made Empire Times a publication worth every student’s and staff’s time. Being part of the ET team, I feel damn proud to have worked in an environment that is supportive of the great writers, artists, journalists, bloggers, and editors of the future. Our contributors might not know it yet but their journey with ET is just the beginning of something even bigger for them.
I quickly learnt that not all our hard work is in the forefront of every reader’s mind and nit-picking will inevitably ensue. Sometimes it may feel like being an editor is much like playing tetris—all your mistakes pile up and your achievements disappear. This is not the case, however. It’s been important to remind myself that the errors I have made feel more dramatic at the time and having a glass or three of wine is a perfectly adequate means of encouraging myself to interpret negative feedback as constructive criticism.
Somehow, in amongst all the meetings, emails and designing, we find the time to support each other on a personal and professional basis. We are constantly ‘on’ for our fellow editors as well as contributors. Making ourselves available at all hours, it is often late at night when the most intriguing of ideas can, over the course of an editor-contributor dialogue, blossom into fully-fledged articles.
Students have been our greatest asset and it is their voices that permeate through Empire Times long after a reader has put it down. Being an editor of a student magazine places you in a very rare and opportunistic position in that you are the first contact for a student looking to have their work published and must respect the vulnerabilities associated with new writers and artists. I feel very lucky to have been involved in many writer’s first steps towards being published—what may initially present as tentativeness, uncertainty and self-consciousness soon transforms into confidence, articulation and a passionate drive.
To wrap it up—because I could go on for pages—the editor experience is one that is unique, challenging and rewarding. It’s cliché but ‘you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life’.
Despite being the politics columnist in 2014 and writing for ET in 2013, I was absolutely not adequately prepared for all that Empire Times was going to throw at me as Editor.
I did not get the job in the usual way—I was still on exchange when FUSA posted that they needed a new editor. Using my in newfound European courage I threw caution to the wind and hoped for the best. As luck would have it, I had a Skype interview at 2am in a hostel in Budapest and received a 4.30am phone call in Berlin to say I had the job and—not one to shy away from a challenge—started editing when I arrived in Amsterdam two days later. Three weeks later I arrived in Adelaide half way through the first week in March and less than nine hours later I joined the people who would challenge, inspire and push me to be the best I could be.
Hitting the ground running I soon learnt that Empire Times is all-consuming and the term editor sold the job short. Those first few weeks were a total blur of learning and freaking out, and it mere weeks before my fellow editors (and beautiful FUSA staff) cropped up in my dreams. I also learnt very quickly that spending more time with them than my family/regular friends was incredibly normal.
When I first started I assumed Photoshop was just a program to make models in photos skinnier, Illustrator was for people with super genius level drawing skills and that InDesign was a typo. Fortunately now, not only can I kinda sorta use these programs I actually find it the highlight of my week. It is fun to see a concept in your mind become a reality.
I think the one thing newbie editors don’t really prepare for is the fierce learning curve that takes place as soon as you are handed the keys to your fancy office on the first day. I remember sitting down at my computer and not having a clue how to turn it on… I found out there is such a thing as a dumb question. Seriously though, joking aside, there is actually NO such thing as a stupid question, you just have to be willing to ask for help.
Having control over 1/3 of Empire Times puts you in the power seat (read: swivel chair) and with it, a responsibility to execute and show off the best of what Flinders students have to offer. It is up to you to go and find those spectacular artists floating around the Humanities Courtyard, it is up to you to source those exciting and original articles, and it is up to you to nurture and inspire contributors so they can do and be their best. Editors are the playmakers, they have their hands in all the pots and without out them everything falls apart; but it is only with complete dedication that it turns out successful.
This year has been challenging and stressful, but coming out the other end I would absolutely not change anything for the world. The people I have met, and the things I have done are truly a once in a lifetime experience.
I joined the editing team in June, when a space opened up, and while I’ve only worked on six issues, this has been one of the most intense, and enjoyable, years of my time at Flinders.
It’s been a real struggle trying to balance my responsibilities for Empire Times with my Honours requirements, including the two week internship I spent in Canberra. But my fellow eds, Jess and Laura, have been incredibly patient and accommodating during these times. Without such a wonderful team, I’m not sure how I could have managed this year. Yes I inevitably extended my studies part time, but that just seems to be how everyone copes with such a demanding job as Empire Times. And those who don’t are insane (or insanely talented at time management).
I’ve learned a lot this year. I’ve learned how to use a Mac (something I was very hesitant to do, as a PC purist), I learned InDesign and Photoshop (changing the image type counts), and I learned that there are no short-cuts to transcribing a recorded interview. If the technology to accurately turn audio file to text does exist, I could not find it in the several hours I wasted trying. So you’re probably just going to have to do it the hard way, or hire a professional transcriber, if you really want to spend your Editor money on that instead of fun things like food and car registration.
Which brings me to the pay. The money from FUSA has been a huge boost in my funds, doubling what I was previously earning from my other casual job and Youth Allowance combined (which is really more of a comment on how underemployed I was/still sort of am). It’s still not minimum wage, but the honorarium is better than nothing, which is what editorial teams at some other student mags get. It’s also less than what eds were paid back they brought in the VSU, but there’s not much we can do about that (other than complain about it constantly in SC pages and editorials, haha).
I’ve also learned that wrangling contributors can sometimes be like herding cats (which is my favourite metaphor for everything), although our writers tend to be better behaved and apologetic when missing deadlines. It’s been really amazing working closely with a number of you to help hone your craft and let your voices shine. I hope you’ve enjoyed the experience as much as I have.
It’s been a real honour to work on this magazine, and I thank all of you who have come up to me, in person or online, to tell me how much you’ve enjoyed my half-rants, half-poor-attempts-at-comedy in my editorials. I’d love to continue, and depending on the results of the elections (I’m writing this before voting opens), I’m super excited to be back for another year, OR I’m super sorry to go and best of luck to the new team (you bastards *shakes fist*)*.
Jokes aside, it’s been a blast. You’re all beautiful. Thanks for the ride.
*Eds note! Simone will be returning in 2016 as editor.
Words by Jess Nicole, Laura Telford and Simone Corletto (2015 Empire Times Editors)