Editor-in-Chief-elect set to take the helm

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Editor-in-Chief-elect set to take the helm

Ryan Quinn

Ryan Quinn

Ryan Quinn

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For Kyle Smith, his rise to the helm of Saint Louis University’s student newspaper was not something he expected would happen when he was recruited to be a part of the paper’s editorial staff during his sophomore year.

“I’ve had quite a few lucky, unexpected breaks during my time with the UNews,” he admitted. “I first began as an associate sports editor my sophomore year, having never actually written for the paper before then. When the opportunity to join the editorial staff came up, I took it, honestly thinking of it as just something that would be fun, easy and a good way to make a little money. But pretty soon, I found myself running a sports section, followed by the opinion, and now, apparently, a newspaper.”

But the junior, who is studying political science and hopes to attend law school after graduation, feels ready to lead. He is energized by the responsibility vested in him to lead one of SLU’s oldest and most prestigious student organizations – one that is not bound by SGA funding or under editorial influence by the administration, and that generates most of its own revenue from advertising. Smith, in fact, has already had a taste of UNews glory; at the annual Missouri College Media Awards ceremony in April – the event that represents all college press in the state – he won an award for best editorial writing for some of the work he produced during his tenure as the UNews opinion editor.

But, though the paper has had success in the past, Smith admits that times are changing – especially at the university level, where more and more students get their news from cell phones and social media. Smith outlined a balanced approach to addressing this phenomenon, stressing the continued importance of the student press while also not underestimating the power of these new media forms.

“I think the UNews plays an important role in campus life,” he said. “We are the only newspaper in the world that is focused solely on the SLU community. This gives us a pretty unique opportunity to do some really impactful original reporting. I also think that the paper plays an important role in documenting the history of the present day. Decades from now, people can look to our archives to get an unfiltered look of what life at SLU was like during our time here, and that’s something no one else can claim to do.”

“[But] I’d like to expand our paper’s online presence quite a bit,” he added. “While I do think our print edition will always be indispensable to what we do here, I think the internet is hugely important for the future of journalism. Rather than falling behind the curve, I’d like the UNews to become a leader in a changing industry in the next few years. I think we can begin that transformation now by reforming our website, offering exclusive online content and increasing our social media presence.”

These goals do not come without challenge, however; the 2015-2016 school year saw the UNews website plagued with problems – text wouldn’t always render properly, pictures often did not show up correctly on the page and online advertising was impossible because of various technical difficulties. But Smith is optimistic. He plans to spend the summer in St. Louis and sees these months as the ideal time to get things in order – both on the digital and print sides of the operation. And he shows gratefulness and respect for his new position as editor-in-chief.

“The UNews is unlike any other student organization in the fact that we don’t have to necessarily answer to the administration, SGA or any other body,” he stressed. “We have complete editorial freedom to express ourselves however we chose. While we definitely have to use this freedom responsibly, I think we owe it to ourselves and to the student body to print the honest truth, regardless of who might object.”

Smith, unlike his predecessor, does not exhibit a dislike of bow ties – which many thought would chill relations between SGA, with its bow-tie-clad executives, and UNews leadership. It hasn’t, and Smith is happy about that; he mentioned that he wouldn’t want anything to get in the way of the UNews doing its civic duty of keeping an eye on the financial underpinnings of the student government.

When asked what he’s liked most about working on the UNews for the last few years, Smith, of course, mentioned his amusement with the obsession his coworkers have for tuna fish videos. He also expressed appreciation for having had the opportunity to work with other editors who have won academic awards – “It’s not everyday you have people win these awards,” he said. But he also referenced more recent incidents that have occurred during his time at the Opinion desk.

He said: “While I’ve had a lot of really great memories over the past two years, I would have to say that the high point of my career here at the UNews was when a SLU alumnus wrote a letter to the paper referring to an editorial I wrote about Trump as ‘true liberal balderdash.’”