Scroll Editor Jess Schnittjer Passes the Quill
For those of you who may not know, Jess Schnittjer, Senior Editor of The Scroll for three and a half consecutive years, is passing the torch to a new editor come the end of this month. Her legacy as the pioneer of The Scroll online has impacted many aspects of campus life in ways you may not even be aware of. While pursuing a Masters in Religion, accompanied with minors in English and Youth and Family Ministry, Jess led The Scroll with grace and with a passion that drove it essentially out of its grave into the paper that you see today.
In a typical exit interview style, I met with Jess to discuss all of the changes that The Scroll has gone through under her care, and how The Scroll will continue to affect her life as she moves on from full-time studenthood into an entirely new territory.
Q: Where did your career with The Scroll first begin?
When I visited Cairn for SOAR, I met Dean Sherf and he said, “one day you’re going to be in charge of The Scroll” after I told him about my interest in reading and writing. I laughed because I didn’t take any part of what he said seriously. It started with me just wanting to write an article. But when I emailed The Scroll asking to write, I got an email from Sherf instead to meet about joining The Scroll staff. It was in that meeting that he offered me the position of editor. That was something I never saw coming.
Q: What were your first thoughts about being asked to be Senior Editor?
To be honest, I didn’t think I wanted it. The Scroll was still in its paper form and I had never personally read it until one day I picked one up in the commuter lounge that had a few glaring grammatical errors. I didn’t originally want to take up a project that I didn’t see anyone reading.
Q: What was it that convinced you to take the project on?
I believed that I could take it over and improve it. I enjoy writing and I thought at the very least it would look good on a job application.
Q: For those who were not around when you took over The Scroll in the Spring of 2014, what did The Scroll look like at that point?
It had the style of a regular newspaper, printed on a few pieces of paper. It was written mostly by staff, but included some freelancers. It would be formatted the way that the editor chose to arrange the articles, and then the newspaper would be sent to a publishing company. We would not receive the printed paper until a month after we submitted the articles, making it impossible to publish relevant topics. In addition to that, nearly all of The Scroll’s budget went towards this outside publishing. I didn’t think that it was a good use of the money that we were given. The Scroll was in between advisers when I began. To further the effectiveness of The Scroll, I enlisted the help of Professor Amy Dunlap to help facilitate and support my ideas.
I had the vision to put The Scroll online. I took The Scroll over in 2014 and I converted it into an online medium for the 2015 fall semester. I figured that I would be able to reach more readers, including a non-Cairn student audience. This would extend our readership to family, friends, and alumni that are no longer on campus. I told myself that even if no one read the online paper, at least I wasn’t wasting hundreds of dollars on a print medium. I just hoped that it would catch on and that people would enjoy it in an online format.
Q: You said that you hoped that more people would read an online paper. Do you think that you have achieved that goal?
There are definitely still some articles that don’t receive a lot of web traffic. But many articles have reached hundreds or even thousands of views. A lot of that can be credited to interesting titles, shares on Facebook pages, or even the popularity of the author or topic. So even though there is still room for improvement in the overall readership, I think we are doing a better job at publishing articles that are worth reading.
While I do think that the medium contributes significantly to the popularity, I think that the content has changed significantly for the better as well. In addition to going online, I also created categories that are regularly contributed to in order to provide a variety of interesting and thought-provoking articles each month. But yes, I do think that an online as opposed to print media caters better to our world and the way it receives information.
Q: What would you consider is the purpose of The Scroll and how does its purpose differ from the Cairn magazine publications?
I’ve been really pleased with the new format of The Scroll. It really allows us to fulfill our mission statement in a way we have never been able to before. Our mission statement is: “The Scroll acts as an advocate for Cairn University students by reporting news, provoking thought, evoking conversation and offering challenges from its own student voices.” It has become like a combination of newspaper and blog, and I think that has provided a great avenue for students to share their thoughts with the student body. Whereas the Cairn magazine or other Cairn-based publications tend to be academic in nature, The Scroll offers a chance to truly be the voice of the students. Students can share anything with the student body, and have the opportunity to enhance the spiritual formation of fellow students. I’ve been really impressed over the years with what students have shared, and how that has influenced the Cairn community.
Q: How will you take what you have learned during your time on staff and apply it to your future career?
I have definitely learned how to run a staff of people, which has helped me to enhance my leadership skills. I also plan on starting a blog where I can continue to exercise my writing.
Q: What is your blog going to be about? When will you start it?
I plan on starting in a few weeks, whenever I can come up with a title for it. When you pick a title for a URL, you’re stuck with it forever. I am having a difficult time settling on a title. But once I have one, I’ll be good to go. To start with, everything will basically be just my thoughts and ramblings about things I would normally keep in a journal. After that I will probably be writing about what I learn through my internship that I have this fall.
I’m waiting for my acceptance, but I have applied to do a missions internship overseas. I have debated about telling people this, but I guess it’s out there now! I will not know officially until the end of April, but I know that God will grow and stretch me in a way that will be worth writing about.
Q: What is your hope for The Scroll as you “pass the quill” to the new editor at the end of this month?
I hope that the readership will continue to grow. I hope that everyone will know what The Scroll is, rather than seeing raised eyebrows when students mention it to their friends. I hope that The Scroll staff continues to grow in both numbers and as overall writers in the world of journalism. It would also be really great to see the interest of freelancers increase as the years go on as well, as that will only increase the quality of work that The Scroll publishes.