The 4 Student Journalists You’ll Meet At A College Newspaper


As the Editor-in-Chief of my campus newspaper, you could say I’ve had my fair share of dealings with student journalists. During these dealings I’ve observed four types of learners/workers; while I suspect these categories aren’t limited to my own major and profession, I’ll limit my critique to this area because it’s where I have the most experience.

1. The Whiz.

There’s always that one student who seems born to do the job, who learns so fast you wonder if you’re teaching him/her anything. This student is usually a joy to work with, but beware assigning him/her too much responsibility, because even the wunderkinds among us need time to learn and grow. A heartbreaking variation of this is a Whiz who never bothers to learn professionalism and responsibility, because everything comes easily to him/her.

2. The Learner.

While this student may not pick up on things as quickly as the Whiz, s/he is willing and able to take constructive criticism to heart. With the help of a responsible mentor who takes time to gauge the student’s understanding and work within it, the Learner has the potential to become one of the best at what s/he does.

3. The Serviceable Minion.

Not as talented as the Whiz, not as willing to grow as the Learner, the Serviceable Minion is someone who can get the job done – after you repeatedly hammer the basics into his/her skull. Don’t expect much creativity from this type, but you can force them to achieve a sort of mechanical proficiency if you harp on them enough.

4. The Hopelessly Lost. 

Let’s face it – not everyone is cut out to be a journalist. Some of the Hopelessly Lost are – pardon my French – just plain stupid, and will have difficulty no matter where they go in life because they either can’t or won’t apply themselves. Others are actually quite smart, but by some twist of fate they wandered into a profession that fits them about as well as a wrist brace fits a puppy’s head. There comes a point where you have to do yourself a favor and let this one go, because fixing his/her work ends up being more work than just doing it yourself right from the start.

Obviously, a student’s learning type does not necessarily guarantee his/her success. I’ve worked with Whizzes who have gone on to do great things, and I’ve worked with Whizzes who have burned brightly and burned out. I’ve worked with Learners who have grown to be amazing journalists, and I’ve worked with Learners who have become okay journalists.

I will say that Serviceable Minions are almost more frustrating to work with at times than the Hopelessly Lost, because you can dismiss the latter kind and not lose too much sleep over it. Minions, however, require constant shepherding and parenting – a lot of effort to achieve a merely acceptable result.

I count myself lucky to have worked with all the different types in a wide variety of flavors, because it has led me to become a better judge of character and learning ability. As a society we have a tendency to praise the Whizzes, but some of my best experiences have been with interested and motivated Learners.

While we might wish everyone could be a Whiz or a Learner, perhaps the Minions and the Lost are necessary to balance things out. If we’re going to work in a meritocracy, after all, there needs to be recognition for different levels of ability. Perhaps this sounds elitist, but I remain unapologetic – my goal as Editor-in-Chief is to get the job done (aka get the paper out) and help students realize their potential.

Of course, like any system of categorizing people, I’m sure you could add more categories or classify people as combinations of the categories I created. It’s not the point of this article to create a comprehensive taxonomy system – but perhaps bearing these types in mind can better help you understand the ink-stained, camera-carrying, Clark Kent-in-training portion of the student body.