Randal C. Archibold, Senior News Editor at The New York Times came in to speak to aspiring journalists and editors at The Knight News office on Apr. 19th during free hour. The conversation began with some backstory as to how Archibold started his career in journalism. Originally a Chemistry major, he decided to explore journalism at the daily newspaper at his college, Rutgers University, and realized that he enjoyed it.
Before his recent promotion to Senior News Editor, he was the Sports Editor, who wanted to cover sports through a historical or cultural lens. This untraditional way of covering sports is what he uses to center around the idea of finding a ‘diamond in the rough,’ among intern applicants, stressing that applicants stand out when they’re able to take a story in unique directions. He noted that ‘not doing what the masses are doing is a step in the right direction.’
The discussion continued with Archibold giving advice for future journalists to not only read a lot, but understand why a story is working and how it grabbed your attention. He stressed the importance of being curious and to, “Never assume you know everything, always work or research beyond your notes.”
Like many, Archibold knows the dread of staring at a blank computer screen, with the blinking cursor serving as a reminder that nothing has yet been written. To this, he advises going back to your notes and reflecting on what the reader will be most interested in, reminding us that being nervous is nothing to be ashamed of, but rather shows how much you care.
When describing the ever-changing journalism industry, he says it is modernizing to current times with digital skills being more appreciated than in years past. This transitional period where individuals are being hired for both their digital and traditional journalistic skills serves as a glimpse of what the future of journalism holds.
As an editor, Archibold emphasizes the importance of the reader, especially those coming into an article with no prior knowledge. He stresses that good editors ‘come with questions, not demands’ when approaching their writer. With the duty to elevate writing, editors must be open minded to various styles of writing while making sure that it is coherent enough to engage a broader audience.
Holden Velasco, Editor-in-Chief of The Knight News, who led the discussion with Archibold reflected on the organization of the event with it being the first event The Knight News has hosted in-person since COVID-19. Velasco stressed the challenge in, “Navigating the budgetary process with the office of Student life since it was our first-time requesting funding for an in-person event.” He hopes to hold more in-person events noting that events like these are, “Invaluable, as listening to those who are so knowledgeable about the journalism industry is paramount to understanding the craft.”
Velasco met Archibold well before this event, however, as the two are paired in The New York Times Corps program Velasco was selected for. The New York Times Corps program is a ‘talent-pipeline program for college students in the United States to receive career guidance from New York Times journalists over a multiyear period.’ Archibold is Velasco’s assigned mentor, and the two have been working together since August of last year. Velasco was selected as one of twenty students in the inaugural cohort, and is the only student in the cohort from the state of New York.
When asking Professor Jason Tougaw, the Faculty Advisor for The Knight News, Professor Tougaw said how impactful it was to have an in-person event after three years. Professor Tougaw stressed that while having the series on Zoom has been great, and it made a huge difference to be physically together. He commented that, “There were new faces there, students who don’t work with The Knight News, along with our staff and interns. People were able to interact in real time in a way that doesn’t happen on Zoom.” He also acknowledged that the interconnection students had with each other and with Archibold even after the event is due to the event being in-person.
Kevil Shah, an attendee who is a Senior majoring in Film Studies and Math, commented on the event saying, “Mr. Archibold instilled in me a sense of hope in regards to my journalism prospects. He spoke about how publications like The New York Times hire writers with a STEM background who have robust journalistic skills that complement it.”
Jessica Calvo, another attendee who is a Junior majoring in English with a Writing and Media Studies minor, reflected on the event and her hopes for future events. She said, “Randal offered some great advice about how to navigate this shift in reporting, which helped ease my worries. All I can wish for is that Queens College keeps bringing in reporters from all walks of life.”
The permanent return of the in-person ‘Visiting Journalist Series’ will be significant for students in providing guidance and support for those interested in the industry, benefiting from these inspiring discussions. This is especially true since Queens College currently does not have an official journalism program.