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Under the guidance of new faculty adviser Dr. Lisa Lyon Payne, Marlin Chronicle student-run newspaper is going strong

By Leona Baker | November 16, 2011

altIt’s deadline night in the Marlin Chronicle newsroom. Student staff members are hunched over a row of computers, dropping photos into place, tweaking layouts and making final edits. Others are gathered around a large oblong table scattered with papers and notebooks and a night’s supply of Domino’s Pizza, Reese’s Cups and Mountain Dew Code Red.

One student is marking up a printout of a story in red ink. Another is absorbed in a sketchbook, creating one of the original illustrations that will be used in the latest issue of Virginia Wesleyan College’s only student-run newspaper.

Looking on is Assistant Professor of Communication Dr. Lisa Lyon Payne, who took the reins as faculty adviser for the Chronicle as of the beginning of the fall 2011 semester. Payne assumed the role when beloved journalism professor Dr. Bill Ruehlmann retired after 17 years at VWC. Under Ruehlmann’s tutelage, the publication garnered dozens of state and national awards.

“Filling Dr. Ruehlmann's shoes was a tall order,” she says. “He was such an integral part of this group for so long. But as I've gotten more familiar with the students and the inner workings of the newspaper, I've identified some areas that I think would make this a stronger publication and better learning experience for the students.”

Among those are streamlining the Marlin Chronicle website, opening up the publication to the real-world benefits and challenges that come along with including paid advertising, and offering academic incentives to encourage more student participation from outside the Communication Department.

Payne, whose professional experience includes work as a writer, editorial assistant and public relations specialist, says she sees her role in the publication as threefold: mentor, advocate and logistical facilitator.

“It's very important to me that the staff has 100 percent editorial freedom. My experience with the students so far has been that they are a motivated and committed group. Most don't receive any class credit for their work; they contribute for the love of the learning experience. As a faculty member, it's so refreshing to be able to mentor a group like that.”

Published five times per semester, the most recent issue of the Marlin Chronicle features cover stories about the new Alpine Tower on campus and student perspectives on the national Occupy Wall Street movement. Though the name has changed several times over the years, the student newspaper has been around since the College’s inception. The “Marlin Chronicle” moniker—a nod to the College’s mascot—came about in 1982. Recent issues include campus news and feature stories, community information, and opinion pieces as well as arts and entertainment and sports coverage.

For students, working on the paper is an opportunity not only to polish their writing, photography or illustration skills but to work with a diverse group of people toward a common goal and experience the often hectic pace and multitasking challenges of putting a publication together on a regular basis.

Senior Rachel Satterwhite got involved with the Chronicle during her freshman orientation. Until she graduates this December, she will serve as editor in chief.

“I have greatly enjoyed my time working with the Marlin Chronicle and staff,” Satterwhite says. “As stressful as deadline nights can be, I enjoy them because of the great group of editors we have and our amazing adviser, Dr. Payne. We all manage to have fun on those late nights.”

Satterwhite says the paper serves as an important information vehicle as well as a learning opportunity.

“I think a college newspaper should be an outlet to represent not just the institution but also the students. It should offer students a chance to get involved and learn from each other. One of the great things about being a small school is that students can get involved with the paper their first semester of college.”

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