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Introduction to my classmates

January 18, 2011

As part of my course work for World History & Geography 2, I have to write a three-page autobiography to introduce myself to my classmates. Here is an excerpt from it.

I am an undergraduate in the Arts & Humanities program at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston Auburn College. This semester marks the 11th consecutive semester in which I have been enrolled in courses, taking two courses per semester. This is the first semester in which I am undertaking an Independent Study course, making me a full-time student. I am very excited about my research and studies for that course. The topic is flexible at the moment, but includes working with a non-profit organization to archive, preserve, and digitize their documents and photographs which reach back to the founding of the organization in the 1890s. Can you imagine the history in those documents? I would love to see the documents incorporated into local school curriculums from fourth grade and up. Along the way, I plan on researching the role the organization played in the community and civic engagement, such as the creation of the area’s first school playgrounds, and also credit for the implementation of citywide spring cleaning trash pick-up goes to this organization. I plan on researching grants to fund these projects as well as for renovation/maintenance of the organization’s home office. I also plan on helping the club update the tools they use to reach out to members – both established and potential – through the use of social media and other digital technologies. This project will take more than one semester and I am hopeful that I will accomplish my goals. I would love to hear from anyone about their Independent Study experience. One classmate told me that it did not work out for her because she had poor time management skills.

When I’m not in school, or studying, I work full-time as an editor at the Sun Journal in Lewiston. I am the managing editor of the Special Sections which is a function of the Advertising department. You may see the products that I produce if you read the newspaper supplements that are inserted in the newspaper. The supplements all have themes and the content for them comes from many sources which funnel through me. Supplements are also known as tabloids and in the newspaper industry they are known as tabs. Some tabs, such as the Balloon Festival tab, are almost entirely filled with editorial content and photos supplied by the organization’s committee. One-time supplements – usually a business or organization celebrating an anniversary, open house, grand opening, or renovation – contain editorial content supplied by that advertiser. Sometimes an independent contractor (freelancer) is needed to provide the editorial content, in which case I hire a freelance writer/ photographer/ videographer to work with the advertiser.

When Special Sections uses the services of an independent contractor to produce editorial content for Special Sections supplements, the freelancer retains the copyright. The newspaper is purchasing first-time publication rights from the freelancer and permission for publication in any and all of its newspaper/ online products. Advertisers and others who wish to use the freelancer-produced editorial content in products not affiliated with the newspaper – content for which the newspaper has paid the freelancer – must contact the freelancer directly for that permission and possible payment to the freelancer. That is because the newspaper has paid for the use of that editorial content in its newspaper/online products only. The newspaper is not paying the freelancer to provide marketing materials for the advertiser.

I maintain lists of independent contractors, assignments, and payments. I submit invoices to the vice president of Advertising & Marketing (my boss), as well as the Payroll department. I have kept track of freelancer payments from 1996, before I was hired as editor. For themed supplements such as Weddings, Women, Health, Family, and others, after discussion with the editorial team, I decide what topics to assign to the freelancers. The budget allows for at least two or more freelancer-produced articles per supplement. The topics are based on the theme of the supplement, to be sure, but also taken into consideration are the advertisers of that supplement. For example, if family counselors usually advertise in the Family supplement, a freelancer could be assigned to write on a topic such as teen depression, including quotes in the article from at least three sources. Advertisers are allowed to submit topical articles that adhere to Special Sections guidelines. The editorial content is meant to be interesting and useful for our readers. The inclusion of quotes from local experts gives the articles a local flavor and more authority. The number of pages in a supplement is determined by the number of ad inches sold.

I edit stories for grammar, spelling, and to make sure the AP Style guidebook is followed as closely as possible. Also, I format photos in PhotoShop, adjusting for the best print and web versions. Text, photos, and videos need to be entered in the Content Management System. When a supplement is designed for the print version, I become a paginator, which means page designer. Pages are designed following the Special Sections Design styles as closely as possible. Adjustments are made as needed. I notify the advertising department design manager of missing or problematic ads. I also check the print schedule to make sure that the supplement is scheduled to be printed by the press room and that the day it is being printed is the day after I plan on sending the pages to the PrePress department. A copy of the supplement is printed so that the Advertising department can proofread it. Every extra set of eyeballs help.

When the supplement has been okayed, I export the pages to a folder that prepares the pages for the plate making process. I must view each page digitally and check that everything on the digital version of the page looks as it does on the print version. When each page is approved, my job is finished. The next step in the workflow is PrePress, the department that makes the plates that will then go to the press room. I send an e-mail to Advertising advising them that the pages have been sent to CTP so that they don’t make any more changes to ads in the tab because it will be too late. I also create digital versions of the tabs and upload them online. This is not done automatically and it is time consuming so I won’t go into the details here.

I took World History & Geography I last semester and the reading assignments have changed the way I think about history. I appreciate the social and cultural context of historical events more now than prior to taking the course. I am now able to look at patterns that repeat themselves throughout history, such as the evolution of some hunter-gatherers into a more settled agrarian society, which then expanded under the influence of technological innovations, more food, increased population growth, cities, specialized careers, etc. Along the way, I have been paying attention to gender, race, and class. I find this way of learning history to be of practical importance and hope to glean knowledge that I can apply to my research project.

For example, I searched the New Universalist site and found this article, “The power of the cooking pot,” which is a recap of an interview of activist Ashwin Desai by Holly Wren Spaulding. The article can be found at if you are interested in reading it. This article relates to peaceful activism by an entire community. Desai says, “Many people on the Left are very cynical about community movements because their militancy is not palpable – they’re not storming the barricades… what we are doing is building a sense of neighbourhood, a sense of community which is as effectively anti-World Bank as any demonstration or resolution coming out of an NGO workshop.” One of the community movements revolves around the fact that women are paid wages that do not meet poverty levels; they cannot pay rent. So they continue to work for the low wages, but don’t pay rent, forcing the government to deal with its own laws that allow factories to pay women so little.

People are tired of talking and want action: “People are ready for activism. Delivering free basic services by reconnecting water and electricity. Building structures of feeling by sharing resources.” Can you imagine if all problems could be solved peacefully? Desai concludes the interview: “Part of building community movements is unlearning old ways of doing things.” This is the same as saying we need to learn new ways of civic engagement.

From the Journal of World History, I read the article, “World History and the History of Women, Gender, and Sexuality,” by Merry Wiesner-Hanks. You can find it through EBSCO. The article examines the disconnect between how “world historians see women’s history as a matter of families and private life; women’s/gender historians see world history as area studies and world-systems theory” (54). Because the non-profit organization which is part of my Independent Study is a women’s organization, I read the article hoping to find information that I could use in my research. I found a quote from Gerda Lerner that has piqued my interest in learning more about her. She wrote that more research is needed that “’focuses on the activities, thoughts, and experiences of women,’ and that also constructs theory that develops a ‘new paradigm for an egalitarian history of men and women as agents of history’” (58-59). This statement about developing a more comprehensive history that equally examines the roles of men and women is what I hope to accomplish when I start writing about the lives of the people who participated in civic engagement through the non-profit organization with which I have partnered.

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