J-Student Spotlight: Georgia Adams, Univ. of West Florida

Georgia Adams once proudly danced on the bar at Coyote Ugly in Nashville, and her hair is sometimes red “or redder, or blue, or something in between.”  Her journalism work is similarly bold and scattered.  Adams is currently finishing up a stint as both managing editor AND sports editor (interesting combo) for The Voyager student newspaper at the University of West Florida, a dual-role that recently earned her a promotion to editor in chief.  Over the past year, she has also helped oversee a feature that Adams admits caused a more-than-mini campus debate: a regular Voyager column, “Sex & the University.”

As CMM previously reported, the ruckus started after a parent stumbled upon the column in a campus cafeteria while on a school tour with his high school senior son.  He subsequently sent a letter of condemnation so bloated with wide-eyed, parental angst it still makes me laugh out loud after multiple readings.

There is much more to a student newspaper than a sex column, and much more to a quality editor’s work than dealing with adults who just don’t get it.  For her sleep-deprived, ink-stained, uber-productive year as Voyager sports ed. and ME, Adams rightfully earns a place in the CMM Student Journalist Spotlight.

Georgia Adams

Georgia Adams enjoys a concert in summer '08.

Write a six-word memoir of your Voyager experience so far.

My year: sleepless, covered in ink.

To all the campus media haters out there: Why does The Voyager matter?

The Voyager gives students a forum to speak their minds and interact with their community.  Especially on our campus, which is predominantly made up of commuter students, it’s an important way for us all to connect.  The paper is also a vital tool for training future reporters in every aspect of the news business, from writing and editing to Web skills and design.

You recently received a harsher-than-normal letter from a parent about the paper’s sex column.  What was the staff reaction?

Honestly, our reaction was the same as yours [loud laughter].  We were all somewhat baffled at first.  We periodically run a column written by a young engaged couple who are swingers, and this was the column racy enough to rouse a father’s ire?  When I reread it, I could understand how a conservative parent could be offended- but still, it wouldn’t have been rated more than PG-13 if it were a movie. I still have a little trouble believing how much controversy it spurred.

What would you say to the parent about why the column is published?

First, we don’t publish “Sex & the U.” for shock value.  While it’s true that “sex sells,” the real reason to publish a column with this type of content is to recognize that college students are adults and should be able to talk about sex without shame.  It’s an opinion column, not an instruction manual, but that doesn’t mean it can’t help our students open a dialogue about sex.  After all, just ask Bristol Palin if not talking about sex is a healthy approach.

What is one story appearing in the paper you are especially proud to have overseen?

This commotion over Pixie’s column is one of the highlights.  We got responses from people across campus supporting us, and we got criticism, too.  It was exhilarating to see firsthand that college media really do matter.

Memorable behind-the-scenes production moment.

We did a massive redesign over winter break.  When the first issue printed, I was incredibly proud of, and not a little bit cocky about, my beautiful new layout- right up until I saw that when we were copy editing the back page we inadvertently bumped the last word of a headline off the page.  I was mortified.  I was sure that the first thing my mentor was going to say was, “The redesign looks great — too bad you got sloppy!”  I wandered into his office prepared to hang my head, and heard, “By the time they get to the back page, you’ll have wowed them so much they won’t even notice the headline.”  Of course, the shine wore off after that week, and we had to go back to focusing on content. But it was sweet while it lasted!

[In a follow-up message, Adams confirmed: It was even worse because it wasn’t just a headline, it was a quote from the university president in a headline.  It was supposed to be “Bense: Athletics plan ‘won’t be left on the shelf,'” but I had placed it as “Bense: athletics plan ‘won’t be left on the shelf'” and when our editor-in-chief caught the capitalization typo and corrected it, it bumped ‘shelf’ off the page.  So it read “Bense: Athletics plan ‘won’t be left on the.'”  Mortifying.]

What is one question we should all be asking more often about the current state or future of journalism?

How much does it matter to you to have people dedicated to finding the truth working to deliver it to your door- or computer screen or mobile device?  If everyone keeps focusing on the “death of newspapers,” it’s going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You wake up in ten years. Where are you and what are you doing?

I’m in the city of my heart, Austin, Texas, and I’m either playing Perry White to someone else’s Lois Lane, or I’m teaching a class of students who’ve never even heard of “All the President’s Men” how to properly attribute a quote they got in a telepathic interview.

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