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The college special section piloted to success by three interns


When Anne Halliwell, Rachel Goodman and Aubrey Gibson arrived from Indiana University as interns at the Daily Journal in Kankakee, Ill., last summer, one of their first assignments was to create a college preparation special section, a first for the Small Newspaper Group daily.

It had a name, Get College Ready, but that was about it. Putting together the magazine-like special section was up to the interns.

The special section, published on a Saturday in July, made money, Sally Hendron, vice president/finance for Small, told Executive Voices in Chicago last month.

And the interns hit Get College Ready’s target, Hendron added: “It was right on message for parents and the (incoming) college kids.”

That’s probably a result of the way the interns went about shaping the product, said Halliwell.

“We started by figuring out what did we want to know when we were freshman,” she said. There were numerous initial topics: college scholarship opportunities, food tips, getting along with roommates, communal showers, and packing for school.




Most important in terms of content, she added, “What were the things we didn’t think about as (incoming) freshmen?”

Ideas and then stories were catalogued in a “giant Google Docs,” Halliwell said, with each of the interns—credited as editors with short bios in the final product—responsible for equal amounts of content.

Aubrey Gibson turned some of the articles into graphic presentation, doing most of the work but running it by the Daily Journal’s graphic artists. Gibson, who had sales experience with Target, also helped with selling ads for the product, Halliwell said.

“We tried to make (content) flow,” she added. For instance, at the last minute a listicle on choosing a major was turned into a personal column on Gibson’s experience, and tips on being a good roommate became a quiz, “What kind of roommate are you?”

Get College Ready attracted ads from several banks, the local community college and a tire store. And it served as a useful stepping stone for Anne Halliwell, who had just graduated Indiana when she took the summer internship.

“I guess it was kind of tryout,” she said. Halliwell is now a staff reporter at the Post Bulletin in Rochester, Minn.