By Mike Goldin '14
If the entirety of our archives from before the year 2010 weren’t missing, we might be able to tell you more about this publication’s genesis. We know this much: the BFP turned 10 this term, and this Fall will mark the 10th anniversary of our first ever printed publication. The BFP has had something of a troubled history— for much of its existence it was a paper that most either disliked or didn’t read at all; at its absolute best, it was silly and fun. In spite of nostalgia, the Free Press’ staff set out to make focused change in these regards early last term; close to eight months later, we hope the difference in the quality of our publication, its content and execution, has evidenced itself. We’re making systemic changes to the way our organization is managed at all levels, and fundamental changes regarding the nature of our work are on the horizon. This is an update on where we’re at, and where we’re going.
Today we are officially launching our new, permanent home on the Internet. Our intention is to transition the Free Press to a 100% digital publication by the end of 2013; aside from mitigating some measure of our environmental impact and cutting a significant expense from our budget, moving online will enable us to reach parts of the Bennington College community we have trouble getting to right now: alumni, parents, prospective students and our friends down the hill in Bennington proper.
We are not interested in the 24-hour news cycle. Bad journalism is junk food for the mind, and misinformation in the media has passed epidemic levels. Our intention is to publish genuinely thoughtful, local-centric stories about what really matters— not what is sensational or easy. We’re rebuilding our production process to generate one thoughtful story every day, rather than 21 stories every three weeks. And they’ll always be about Bennington—competing with the New York Times would only leave us a second-rate knock-off; we’re sticking with what we know best, and what we can do better than anybody else.
It may take us a few more months to completely transition our production cycle to the new model, but we’ll be there by the end of the year.
Benningtonfreepress.gov is not a real website, but the Bennington Free Press does have a governing body: its editorial staff. Presently comprised of an editor-in-chief, managing editor and four section editors— news, features, arts and voices— we’ve found this model somewhat cumbersome, and less than useful given our revised editorial direction. Beginning next year the Free Press’ editorial staff will be comprised of an editor-in-chief who focuses on recruiting, administrative affairs and business development, a managing editor who executes on the paper’s day-to-day functionings, a features editor who produces long-form feature stories across sections, and a reimagined team of section editors specializing in campus news, local news, arts and “campus life”— an amalgam of the best parts of our current features and voices sections. We’re also adding a media editor position to produce original digital media content and assist the editorial staff across all other sections.
We’re also working to disambiguate the means by which writers can advance in our organization. We’ve already added new positions this term: assistant editors. Our AEs shadow an outgoing section editor for a term, learning how the paper works so they can transition into that editor’s position the term following. We’re also developing milestone guidelines for our writers, so that somebody who writes in nearly every issue gets duly recognized in their byline relative to somebody writing for the first time. We’ll be welcoming contributors, staff writers and senior staff writers beginning next term.
This is a crazy and radical time to be working on the Bennington Free Press. Traditionally we’ve done a horrible job of training and retaining new writers, or even making writing compelling for all but the most dedicated. We’ll have more updates on how we’re working to improve the non-staff writing experience next term. In the meantime, if you’re incredibly ambitious, exacting, have a keen interest in public action or campus life and relish working stupid hours for no money— we’d love to have you onboard.