Opinions

Lessons

Joseph McKenzie ’72

Alumni Column

Serving as editor-in-chief of The Crusader taught me more valuable business leadership skills than many of the leadership training courses I completed. These lessons include how to motivate a subordinate staff, how to delegate tasks, and how to write good business prose.

      Ask nicely and hold hands. The staff writer took the first step in volunteering. To get a stream of stories requires continual engagement of those whose “day job” is a student at a rigorous college, and that often required editors to ask nicely. Some assignments can be intimidating, such as interviewing a larger-than-life department chair. This is where the holding hands and guidance on how to approach interviewees comes in. When giving assignments, ask and do not tell. Share your experience because the interpersonal interaction is much more difficult than putting pen to paper.

     Delegate. The key to delegation is trust; its opposite is micromanagement. While everyone has a different background and experiences, all students at the College of the Holy Cross are far more than minimally qualified to write newspaper articles. Trust them. While I was on The Crusader, the sports staff operated pretty autonomously with great results.

      Writing newspaper stories gives great grounding in business prose. A newspaper article should cascade with the most important information in the first paragraph to grab the reader. The second paragraph should convey the second-most important information, and so on. I was once in a meeting with then Secretary of Treasury, Timothy Geithner. He said, “Just tell me the worst thing that can happen.” Not bad advice.

       Thanks to my predecessors David Morgan, Chris Foley, and Had Bush, The Crusader had a strict policy that there would be no unattributed statements. The repeated “He said” or “She added” gives more believability to the story and goes to remove writer bias. Opinions appeared only on the editorial page. The most important issue of the time, both in the country and at Holy Cross, was the war in Southeast Asia. National and international events and their reporting affected Holy Cross far more than at any time since World War II.

     I continue to be a stickler for the Oxford comma, which is the comma that appears before the “and” in a series of three or more items. For example, consider the following, “I went to the concert with my sisters, Oprah Winfrey [no comma] and Betty White” versus “I went to the concert with my sisters, Oprah Winfrey [comma] and Betty White.”

     Some from 1971 to 1974 went on to fame. Ed Jones, MacArthur Grant and Pulitzer Prize winner for The Known World, was on the editorial board. Joe Bergantino, a staff writer, had a long career as an investigative reporter for a Boston television station. Sports editor P.J. Crowley was an assistant press secretary in the Clinton administration and an assistant secretary of state for public affairs in the Obama administration. Sports editor Dan Shaughnessy is a long-time sports columnist for The Boston Globe. Copy editor Jim McCarthy went on to be president of Suffolk University.

     How we did it…The Sunday evening meeting laid out the stories for the upcoming Friday edition and set forth assignments. Separately, the eclectic editorial board met to assign and discuss the week’s editorial. Wednesday night and often stretching to the wee hours of Thursday was when we “put the paper to bed.” In the days long before word processing, the copy was typed double spaced and 33 characters a line so we could estimate column length. Paste-up occurred Thursday afternoon at the printer downtown in Worcester. Photo-offset printed copies would arrive very early Friday morning to be distributed in everyone’s mailbox. The photo staff shot black-and-white film, and they went through Kodak Tri-X by the hundreds of feet.

Joseph McKenzie ’72 was a staff writer for The Crusader for the fall term 1969, features editor for 1970, and editor-in-chief for 1971. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Washington University in St. Louis and was chief economist of the Federal Housing Finance Board. He now serves on the board of directors of the Holy Cross Alumni Association.

Categories: Opinions, Staff, Uncategorized

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2 replies »

  1. Joe

    I never knew. I hope my class letters have not violated the Oxford comma rule of grammar.

    Dick Witry ’72
    Class Agent

    Like

  2. I’m sorry, Joe; I noticed an error in your opening paragraph. Remembering the Crusader staff as I do, your statement should read “…how to motivate an insubordinate staff…”

    Matt Byrne ’72
    Photography Editor ’70-’71

    Like

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