Thursday, May 31, 2018

May 1993: My final Collegian memo

It was 25 years ago this month that I graduated from Penn State University, turned pro and began my journalism career at The Gettysburg Times.

During my four years of college, I had worked on Penn State's student newspaper, The Daily Collegian. I was one of the editors on the sports staff during my final semester, and I recently came across a copy of the final memo that I wrote to the sportsters in May 1993.

It's made from a stew of optimism, sweetness and naiveté, banged out at a time when my mind was surely going in a hundred directions at once. Given that we've now hit the arbitrary quarter-century mark, I thought I'd share the full text here, with a few footnotes:
To: Sports Staff
From: Chris
RE: Outta here1

Well, I guess that's that.

Congratulations to everyone on sports staff for what was certainly the finest all-around year in the four that I've been here. Y'all deserve a lot of credit for putting out what I can safely say is the best and most comprehensive college newspaper sports section in the country.

So, kudos of the year go to the entire staff.2

Best of luck to all of you in your future endeavors, whether they be here at the Collegian or in some other field. For those of you staying on with Collegian, I'm confident you will make next year just as great as this one, if not better.

Finally, the journalist/editor in me won't let me go without making the following tips in an effort to get y'all3 to keep striving to be top-notch writers:

-- Be aggressive and ask lots of questions, including WHY and WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO THE AVERAGE READER.

-- Talk to people, and do lots of interviews. Great interviews are the necessary starting point for great stories. Getting those perfect bits of information and anecdotes are half the battle.

-- Don't confuse lots of interviews with lots of quotes. Stories don't have to be quote-heavy. In fact, the best ones aren't. YOU are the writer — let your narrative tell the story.

-- Strive to make your leads great. A quality human-interest or anecdotal lead is almost always the start of a great story.


Well, that's all. Keep in touch, if you can. I'll try my best to do the same.

The reverse side of the 8½-by-11 sheet of paper this memo was printed on contains the final statistics for the Spring Semester 1993 — STATS-CAO, FOR.SPORTS.STAFF.NO.2, DNE0$. The 33 staff writers and candidates (first-semester reporters) on the sports staff had a total of 668 stories published in the Collegian that spring.

1. That's definitely a Harry Kalas reference.
2. My regular memos that semester — I'm not sure what the frequency was — including a "kudos" section for high-achieving sportswriters.
3. My second y'all of the memo. Memory plays tricks on you, because I didn't think that I started using that word regularly until my stint living in South Carolina from 1997 to 2000.

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