According to Webster’s, a prodigy is an omen or something extraordinary or inexplicable. That fits perfectly with UC Merced’s student newspaper, which is distributed around campus for free.
How else would you describe a monthly broadsheet paper produced on a shoestring budget by a staff of volunteers who are all full-time students? You would call it the Prodigy, because how each edition goes from concept to reality is inexplicable – but it happens. And this year, it happens every month like clockwork.
The Prodigy is about as old as the university itself, debuting during the 2005-06 academic year. But this is the first year it’s been able to maintain a steady publication schedule.
Editor Darryl Liu, a sophomore management major, credits that change to the dedication of his staff, which includes fellow editors Rodney Nickens and Vidur Malik, finance managers Sam Hirsch and Yaasha Saaba, and more than a dozen writers and photographers – all of whom donate their time to making sure students are kept up to date on campus activities and issues.
“If it wasn’t for them, there is no way the paper could get out each month,” Liu said. “Our staff and freelancers do a great job of juggling their commitment to the paper and the demands of school and work.”
That commitment usually includes one to three stories per week, which sounds easier than it is at times.
“Writing is often the easy part,” Liu said. “It’s the reporting that’s tough. Writers have to track down sources and find time between classes to interview them. That’s not easy when the sources are students who are equally busy.”
Besides tracking down sources, student reporters also come up with their own story ideas. Liu believes students are more motivated to write stories they have an interest in, which makes for a better written story.
After the stories are written, Prodigy editors review them and make suggested changes, if needed.
“We try our best to make it a collaborative process,” Liu said.
To increase the feel of collaboration, staff adviser Kristine Van Bebber, organizes writing workshops for the staff once or twice a month. Van Bebber is a lecturer in the UC Merced Writing Program; this is her first semester being involved in the Prodigy. Staff adviser Tonya Luiz, who works in the Office of Communications, offers additional mentoring to the editors and staff.
“The idea,” Liu said, “is to make working on the Prodigy a valuable experience for all involved.
The Prodigy staff meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays when school is in session and at 6:30 p.m. the first Thursday of the month. If you’re interested in joining the staff or have a potential story idea to suggest, e-mail Liu.