Patti Hartranft prepares for retirement after 40 years at The Daily Collegian

Last Friday, as much of the media world was covering the inauguration of the 45th president, Penn State’s Patti Hartranft was trying to clean out her office after 40 years of service to The Daily Collegian. In preparation of her retirement, Patti filled boxes of memorabilia and discussed the lessons she learned over her career.

A year after graduating from college, Patti moved to University Park and took a job as a production manager and typesetter. (Note to young folks: this meant she took the stories from students and the wire, putting them in the correct font and arranging them for publication). She worked her way through the system through operations manager until her last job, General Manager.

As you can imagine, Patti has seen a lot of change in her time at The Daily Collegian. She said she thinks the biggest change she has seen has been the introduction of the Internet and the deluge of information that has followed.

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“Back in 2000 or so when media was exploding, students were suddenly deluged with so much information,” she said. “Their attention is drawn in 50 different directions. Never have we had to scream for students’ attention until now.”

Patti said that while this influx of technology has made many the job of the reporter easier in many ways, it also has posed new challenges for students entering the workforce.

“[The toughest thing these students will face] is just finding the jobs,” she said. “And having all the skills. It’s about doing everything. Live tweeting and all of that. They all have to have all the skills.”

The introduction of the internet has posed other challenges for The Daily Collegian, as it has for other newspapers, not just student ones.

“We have not been able to become digital first.” Patti said. “Our students are still tied to print. We had been trying to get to that point. We haven’t turned that corner yet.”

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She said she thinks the print edition often gets in the way, though students will break stories online.

“I’m not sure all of our staff picks up the print paper,” she said. “We have to change the mindset. We need to get the thrill [of online first] to last.”

Over her 40 years at The Daily Collegian, Patti has seen the paper’s many crises, including 9/11, the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the passing of Joe Paterno. She said those things have stuck with her.

“We really did have to stop the presses when the coach and athletic director and president were fired [as fallout of the Sandusky investigation],” she said. “That happened around 9 or 10 at night. We decided we had to rework that front page.”

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Additionally, Patti said the death of Joe Paterno was another crisis for the newsroom.

“Our online competitor announced it a day before he died,” she said. “Our editor wanted it confirmed [even though other outlets were running with the story]. To her credit she stuck by her story and that was a good thing. We hanged the press run to 35,000 copies, which was scary. But after publication, we ended up ordering 10,000 more.”

The post-9/11 edition order was only 30,000 copies, she said.

“Seems funny that we needed more when Paterno died,” she said.

After 40 years of educating and advising, Patti said the hardest thing about advising was learning to ask students the right questions and letting them draw their own conclusion. She said she hopes she taught students professionalism, integrity and credibility.

While she said she can’t pin down one favorite memory with The Daily Collegian, she will miss the fun of being in the newsroom.

“The times in the newsroom when the business manager is dancing on the desk for beating big quota, [I’ll miss those times], she said. “I’ve had a lot of good times. I can’t get it down to one moment.”

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