Heights Editor in Chief Ryan Heffernan '06. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Student newspaper The Heights begins twice-a-week schedule
By Jack Dunn
Director of Public Affairs
Eighty-five years after it first appeared on campus as a four-page weekly, The Heights, BC's independent student newspaper, has embarked on a new tradition - a twice-weekly publication schedule that debuted Oct. 4.
The change is the brainchild of Heights Editor in Chief Ryan Heffernan, a junior history and communication major from Staten Island, NY, who secured approval for the new schedule from the Heights board last spring to "better serve the BC community." The newspaper is now distributed every Monday and Thursday at 70 locations on and off campus.
"We felt that the change to a twice weekly publication was the right step for us because we could deliver without affecting the quality of the paper, based on the talent of the staff," said Heffernan. "Boston College is so prominent and many of the student papers at our peer institutions publish twice a week, so we felt that the University deserved better from us."
Heffernan, who devotes an average of 50 hours a week to The Heights, admits that changing 85 years of tradition did not come without some trepidation. "Some were at first apprehensive; we didn't know how our staffers would adjust and how people would react on campus, but now we are seeing the value of it and are encouraged by the positive feedback. It feels more like a daily paper."
For Heffernan and the paper's 120 staffers, which include approximately 60 reporters and 35 editors, the volunteer commitment to The Heights is a time-intensive labor of love. With the new publication schedule, a typical week begins on Sunday with staffers arriving around 9 a.m. and working until midnight to finalize the Monday issue. On Mondays, editors prepare story ideas that are assigned at a staff meeting on Tuesdays.
On Wednesdays, Heights staffers generally start working at 9 a.m. and finish the Thursday edition at around 2 a.m. The cycle begins all over again on Fridays in preparation for Monday's issue.
"There is always someone here working," said Heffernan. "The increased talent of the staff has made us more efficient, but there are always Heights staffers in the office writing, editing or designing for the next issue."
For News Editor Tim Czerwienski, a junior English major from Bayonne, NJ, the changing schedule means a shift from what was once a primarily weekend endeavor to a full-week project. "There is much more planning involved now and we find ourselves constantly thinking ahead. We also have an opportunity to cover more events now because we have more pages. I think changing to two days a week gives us more legitimacy on campus and will help us to attract more students who will now have a greater opportunity to write and get involved in the production of the paper."
Features Editor Michelle Sanders '05 credits Heffernan for being the driving force behind the changes that also include the debut of a new Food section and a section called "The Scene," which contains entertainment news and restaurant reviews.
"Ryan is a great boss who is very encouraging and receptive to new ideas," said Sanders, an English and communication major from Ludington, Mich. "He is serious about the responsibility of putting together a high quality publication, but he also keeps it fun."
Heffernan, Czerwienski and Sanders all agree that the additional publication will mean a heightened commitment to an already demanding co-curricular activity, but they are convinced it is time well spent. "You have to concentrate on saving time for your school work and friendships," said Sanders. "It is a question of time management and making sure that you don't forget other things that are important."
Heffernan said, "My professors are more understanding than my friends sometimes. It's a full-time job for which we don't get paid, but it's a most rewarding experience."
This year, The Heights received an "All-American" ranking with four out of five marks of distinction given by the Associated Collegiate Press, which monitors and ranks college newspapers. The paper also won several design awards from the Student Society of Newspaper Design and its on-line Web site is a finalist for the coveted Pacemaker Award, which will be announced in December.
Heffernan credits the paper's rising profile with the enhanced talent of the BC students who sign up for the paper each fall. "This is the most talented staff The Heights has ever had. It is a real team effort."
Dean of Student Development Robert Sherwood offers high marks for the paper and its current staff members from a perspective that spans 20 years. "Ryan Heffernan and his staffers take journalism very seriously and are incredibly dedicated to their work," said Sherwood.
"The paper's standards have improved each year and I am proud of them for successfully transitioning to a twice weekly publication. They provide a great service for the entire BC community."