Student Journalist Spotlight: Nora Simon, Editor in Chief, Oregon Daily Emerald

On her Twitter bio, Nora Simon puts it simply: “Every day I’m editing.” The personal observation is also the title of one of her blogs.

Simon is editor in chief of The Oregon Daily Emeraldthe EIC of the ODE. She has already overseen a major print redesign of the paper and is promoting a “website-first mantra” for news copy flow.

The University of Oregon senior is also a grammar caretaker- and in her spare time a cake baker- who scoffs at new media naysayers and champions journalism students as major j-players.  “I care deeply about student journalism, and I want to be part of the discussion and debate about student journalism issues,” she recently wrote.  “I care about how college newspapers teach journalists and how they serve their communities.”

The editor inside her at times even follows her home.  As she recalled about a trip to Manhattan, Kan., in August, “The first thing I noticed is that they updated all the street signs. My sister retorted, ‘You would notice dumb stuff like that.'”

For her work in helping shape “the new face of the Daily Emerald,” Simon rightfully earns a spot in the CMM Student Journalist Spotlight.  In further explaining my selection of Simon, I bow to the wisdom of her literary inspiration, Oscar Wilde: “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”

How did you become interested in journalism?

Even when I was growing up, I was exposed to journalism constantly. My parents met on their student newspaper at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and we always talked about journalism because my dad is a professor. After vowing I would never follow in their footsteps, I joined my high school newspaper, the Manhattan High School Mentor, where I wrote everything from a feature on our senior speaker to an article about the principal’s decision to keep a campus safety issue under cover. After getting involved with editing my sophomore year of college, I instantly loved how it required me to work with both words and people. I consider editing the best of both worlds. Not only do I get to teach people things, but I learn something new every day.

Why does the Emerald rock?

The Emerald rocks because we’re student-run, independent and hardcore. We only have 40 full-time staff members and five professional staff members, which includes all 10 of our section editors. That means we only have 30 people producing consistent content for a daily, five-day-a-week newspaper that’s read all over campus. We’re all super dedicated to our jobs, and we want to make the paper and our online publication the best it can be. But the people at the Emerald are definitely the best part. We’ve all got our quirks, but we’re all hardcore about journalism.

What’s the toughest part of running a major campus newspaper?

The thing that gets me is time management. There’s always a meeting to go to, always someone or something to distract me. The newsroom is one giant distraction. We get so much done, but because there is so much to do, it’s easy to get sidetracked. Along these same lines, it’s also easy to get caught up in day-to-day problems or issues, rather than focusing on long-term or organization-wide goals. I have a lot I want to accomplish this year, and I tried to make it the focus at the beginning of the year. But at some point it becomes more and more difficult to keep that momentum going once routine has set in.

Then there’s the balance between being a student and a journalist. I know the entire staff has this problem, but it’s strange to think that we’re working full time and still going to school. It makes for a crazy, yet entirely satisfying, schedule. Keeping on top of my goals, troubleshooting throughout the year and continually analyzing why we do things a certain way are certainly going to consume my year.

Memorable Emerald moment.

One great moment at the Emerald was our first Game Day issue before the start of the school year. We revealed our new redesign and had our greatest cover story yet (see screenshot below), complete with a deluxe Cliff Harris quote.  It was amazing to see everyone working together to make it happen. I knew this was going to be a great year because of how amazing that issue was and how well the staff worked together. We hadn’t finalized the design yet, but we were so in love with how it looked that we decided to just do the whole issue with the new style. We stayed up so late making sure everything was perfect with the new design, and it turned out to be one of our most well read, as well as talked about, issues yet.

What advice do you have for j-students similarly aspiring to be EICs?

First, don’t ever give up, even if you feel like you’ve failed. If you’re passionate enough about what you want to do, you’ll find a way to do it. I applied three separate times to the Daily Emerald before getting hired as a copy editor, but during that time I gained other valuable experiences that helped me get the job. Second, keep your connections open. Get to know your professors and other student journalists. That way, you’ll have a great network of people to rely on if you’re looking for a job or just trying to answer a journalism-related question.

Third, part of moving your way up is learning that you’re never going to be perfect but always thinking critically about how you can improve your skills and the skills of those around you. If you’re working at a student publication, start thinking about what things the staff does really well and what things can be improved upon. Finally, realize that you’re a student journalist, and make the most of it. Take advantage of the benefits of being a college journalist, but realize the limitations of a campus publication. Have fun with your job, and make it fun for everyone else, while still being serious when you need to be.

You wake up in 10 years. Where are you and what are you doing?

In 10 years, I will be some sort of professional nerd. In the running, in order of preference, are copy editor, librarian or museum curator. Living in a city about the size of Portland, Ore., or Omaha, Neb., would be ideal. I want a job that allows me to make a difference for a lot of people, but that also gives me down time to read and travel.


Every day, she's editing...


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