‘Witness’ Editor Spends Day at ‘The New York Times’

April 18, 2019

Hands-On Learning Experience Inspires Young Journalist

Two-time, Pulitzer Prize-winning, op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof nonchalantly strolled into the seminar room in which Wilmington College’s Layne Frederick and collegiate journalists from around the country were learning how to write engaging headlines.

PICTURED: Layne Frederick poses in front of The New York Times building.

It’s just another day at the office.

In this case, the New York City office is that of one of the world’s most respected news organizations, The New York Times. Kristof simply wanted to wish them a successful future in the noble and vital profession of journalism.

Frederick is editor-in-chief of WC’s student newspaper, The Witness. The junior from Cincinnati majoring in communication arts and mathematics was selected to attend the April 5 workshop for para-professional journalists.

“I was a kid in a candy store the whole day,” he said. “I learned so much.”

Frederick’s expenses were partially covered by the Lew Marcuson Travel Fund, which assists students pursuing scholarly endeavors. While the estate plans of Marcuson, a longtime English/theatre professor, provided the initial funding, alumni and friends of the College continue to bolster the fund.

Much of the day was instructive in exploring the art of creating engaging headlines and reader-grabbing leads, and the importance of a free and honest press. However, it also provided for an interactive forum in which ideas were exchanged between the student journalists and such prominent Times’ staffers Sam Dolnick and Mark Lacey, the assistant and associate managing editors, respectively.

“The Times is trying to appeal more to younger audiences. They asked our opinion on ideas we might have and our reaction to new innovations they’re planning, such as a summer New York Times TV series, additional podcasts and a newsletter geared toward younger audiences called The Edit,” he said, adding the company is incorporating digitally designed elements for a more interactive experience.

“It’s interesting how they’re getting the right brain and left brain together,” he said. “It was cool actually having a conversation with Times’ staff, rather than it just being a lecture.”

It’s been an exciting spring for Frederick as the Times visit came on the heels of the College re-launching The Witness as a hardcopy newspaper after eight years of only being available online. He said the campus response has been overwhelmingly favorable.

“Several generations of students only knew The Witness as online,” he said, noting that, for many, it “became an invisible entity.” Frederick plans to have an issue ready to distribute in August when new freshmen arrive for orientation.

He said his day at The Times, both in the formal workshop setting and networking with 100 other college journalists, provided lots of new ideas and a renewed sense of purpose for what The Witness can become.

They encouraged us to be the best we can be,” he said.