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Student Leadership at The Daily Beacon

At the University of Tennessee, there are ample opportunities for students to gain experience in leadership and management. One such opportunity is the Daily Beacon, a fast-paced and rapidly evolving department of the Office of Student Media that offers an experience unlike any other on campusThis is The Daily Beacon, published by the students from the Office of Student Media.

The Daily Beacon is UT’s campus newspaper and is produced entirely by students. With the origins of the newspaper dating back to 1871, The Daily Beacon we know today was officially established on April 20, 1965.  While much has changed within the newspaper industry since then, The Daily Beacon still continues to publish content every day and bring the news to light for the UT Knoxville campus.  Even though most of its content now published online, the physical newspaper continues to be published every Wednesday throughout the fall and spring academic terms.

Illuminate had the opportunity to sit down with two members of the student leadership of The Daily Beacon: Editor-in-Chief (EIC) Kylie Hubbard, a junior in Journalism and Advertising Manager Zenobia Armstrong, a senior in Kinesiology and Animal Science.

How would you describe your role in leadership at Student Media?

KH: It’s a lot of pressure to be EIC as a student. As Editor-in-Chief, you are The Daily Beacon. There’s nobody above you. You have advisors… but at the end of the day, it comes down to you. I think being in the EIC position teaches you so much about decisions about being a leader. Being in a leadership position, you’re leading people but you’re also making those hard decisions, and that is easy to translate into any job you get where you do have to make those decisions.

ZA: For me, I lead a sales team of six people as well as ad production. For me, the pressure is on because we are non-profit. A lot of the burden comes on us to make money somehow, and the majority of that money is advertising. So, for me, that means making sure that I have a quality sales team, quality ad reps, we’re putting out a quality product, and working in tandem with the other leaders to make sure we are doing what we are supposed to do. It can be difficult. That goes hand-in-hand with communication with the different parts. One of the bigger changes that we’ve made now is departmentalizing. We’ve got different leaders in different areas and trying to make Student Media as a whole very coherent and an easy ship to float – it’s sometimes difficult but we are getting the hang of it… We see the pressure a lot, but for the most part we are level-headed about how things are done, but there is the real-world experience about making decisions, about hiring and firing, about how to deal with crisis and drama, critical thinking, all the stuff that you have to deal with not only just in journalism and media, but wherever you go. These are all life skills I can take with me.

What leadership challenges do you see here at The Daily Beacon? How do motivate your employees?

 ZA: For me, one of my biggest challenges has been hiring and firing. The turnover rate in sales is pretty rapid, and I don’t think people understand what they are getting into when they sign up to do sales in media. For me, once they are hired, it is making sure they know what they are doing, that they are confident. That’s one of my jobs as a leader – uplifting their confidence, making sure that they are confident in their product and themselves. Because it comes across to the client if they are not. Also, giving praise where praise is due – letting them (sales reps) know when they’ve done well.

KH: I think the challenge in leading the editorial side is that everyone is a student. When you work in an actual newspaper, that’s what you’re doing, you’re working. When you work at the campus newspaper, you’re a student, writer, photographer, videographer. It’s even harder on the editors. I think one of the hardest things for me is making sure people know what they’re getting into… Also motivating people to keep going. Some weeks everybody does stuff, some weeks it seems like you’re the only person doing things. Keeping a steady line of motivation that continues because everybody is going to have a rough week – we all are juggling everything.

How do you feel that your experience at Student Media has set you up for success?

KH: I’ve already had experience with this, which is really cool to see. Working here got me a job at The Knoxville News Sentinel. Working here taught me everything I need to know. The real-life experiences in this building are what set up me up for success. Having a well-rounded experience here, trying to dabble in everything I could, The Office of Student Media gives you so many opportunities to put your foot in the door in everything that media has to offer – and life skills – to where you could walk out and confidently do every job that you might get.

ZA: The Office of Student Media overall gives you a good grasp of life skills. For me, within the job itself I can apply time management, crisis aversion, public relations, dealing with budgets and financial issues. Overall, the work that you do here you can apply anywhere.

KH: We practically run a business, so we all have the skills to also know how a business should be run. We are a well-rounded group.

Any last things you’d like to tell the division about Student Media?

KH: We do represent everybody – it’s not just journalism students here. We’re a place for everybody – we have everything