The Weekly: Creative Director Wendy Zhu and A&E Editor Ella Jeffries talk Week 8

Mika Ellison, Audio Editor



In this week’s episode of The Weekly, The Daily speaks to Creative Director Wendy Zhu and Arts & Entertainment editor Ella Jeffries about the importance of design, special issues and The Monthly, and the complexity of Mod Pizza orders in the newsroom.

MIKA ELLISON: The Daily publishes Sunday through Thursday and prints twice a week.

[sound of newspaper flipping]

MIKA ELLISON: But who’s responsible for ensuring all the articles are placed correctly in the print newspaper, and in what other mediums does The Daily publish?


MIKA ELLISON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Mika Ellison. This is The Weekly: a podcast that breaks down our top headlines each week. Creative Director and Medill sophomore Wendy Zhu and Arts & Entertainment Editor and Medill sophomore Ella Jeffries talk about the quarter so far, including The Monthly and upcoming special issues.


MIKA ELLISON: ​​Thank you guys so much for being here!


WENDY ZHU: Thanks for having us.

MIKA ELLISON: Wendy, can you introduce yourself and tell me what your role consists of at The Daily?

WENDY ZHU: I’m Wendy. I’m the Creative Director. And my job is kind of to oversee the design, photo and illustration desk to make sure that the paper is cohesive visually, I think I do a lot more on print nights, just because that’s when we’re putting together the paper, designing it. And so just making sure that all those desks are running smoothly.

WENDY ZHU: My past experiences have, literally, all been with design. So,I started out as an assistant Design editor my freshman winter. And then after that, my freshman spring and then sophomore fall, I was Design editor. And I kind of took a step back and was assistant design editor again. Then I came back as creative director.

MIKA ELLISON: And what drew you to the paper?

WENDY ZHU: My freshman year, I was just kind of hopping around different publications, seeing what I liked seeing what I didn’t like, I think I was mainly interested in magazine design at first, just because there’s more you can do with it, you have a lot more creative freedom. But then I joined The Daily, and I think I really like the sense of community here, and the people here is what really drew me to it. I had never really done newspaper design before. But I think it wasn’t super difficult for me to transition from magazine to newspaper design. And so I liked the job. I liked the people I was working with. So, I just decided to keep going at it.

MIKA ELLISON: What about you, Ella?

ELLA JEFFRIES: I’m the Arts and Entertainment editor. My job is to oversee all the Arts & Entertainment content that goes through, I put together a 10 week budget of all the stories that we go through each night. And then every Sunday, I’m in charge of making sure we have like five stories to go in the print paper.

ELLA JEFFRIES: My entire freshman year, I just wrote for the city desk. I didn’t really have a position, I was just a reporter. But then sophomore fall, I was assistant copy editor. This winter, I was a development and recruitment editor.

MIKA ELLISON: The arts & entertainment desk covers arts in Evanston and on campus – it includes everything from Liner Notes, which are album reviews, to Open Tabs, which are restaurant reviews, and Reel Thoughts, movie reviews. I asked Ella what one of her favorite parts of this quarter has been.

ELLA JEFFRIES: So far it has been bringing The Monthly back. For some reason, it took a two year hiatus. One of the big projects I wanted to do,coming in as editor, was to bring it back. So I was really proud (of) how the first Monthly edition turned out. I’m excited to see how the second one shapes out.

MIKA ELLISON: For the listeners that may not know, can you tell us what The Monthly is?

ELLA JEFFRIES: Yeah! So, The Monthly, it used to come out as a little mini magazine. But now we just launched it strictly online. It’s a way to feature the Arts & Entertainment desk a little bit more. So it includes three features, like longer form Arts & Entertainment stories, and then just some fun other ones like either Reel Thoughts or Liner Notes and Open Tabs.

MIKA ELLISON: I also asked Wendy what drew her to being a Creative Director and what makes the role fun.

WENDY ZHU: I just liked the vibes in the multimedia room. I think there’s always something going on. Like, sometimes we’ll have a movie playing, we’ll have music playing and it’s just chill in here. And I also think with being Creative Director, I’ve had more experience being the middleman sort of between the newsroom and the multimedia room, which has given me a little more perspective on how both sides work.

MIKA ELLISON: At the beginning of a print night, editors gather together for a budget meeting, where they decide where the stories from the last couple days will go in the paper. Throughout the evening, as articles finish getting edited, design editors place each one into the paper.

WENDY ZHU: I feel like sometimes design is kind of overlooked, like people don’t really think about it as much when they’re picking up a paper. Obviously I think the content is super important as well, like that’s what people are reading, but I feel like a lot of the times people don’t think ‘Oh, someone had to lay out the paper.’ It didn’t just magically appear on the pages and someone had to be intentional with where they were placing things.


MIKA ELLISON: Moving on, what’s something you learned at your position this quarter?

ELLA JEFFRIES: I did have to like, learn how to code a little bit because I had to put in like all the articles and texts. And I’ve never done any coding like that before. So that was a little learning curve. But, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was gonna be. So it was more so doing that, and then designing the layout, like what stories I want to go where, which I think being Best of Evanston editor last quarter — that was like the first time I got exposure to design. So I think that helped me be able to visualize and know like, okay, that’s gonna work best there.

MIKA ELLISON: Wendy says she had to adjust to the quick design deadlines.

WENDY ZHU: I think for me, the biggest thing was probably the time crunch, just because, for regular issues, we do it all just in one night. And that’s a lot different from how magazines do it. Like, they do it over the course of several weeks. But at The Daily, it’s literally just the night before it comes out. Which is not really a lot of time. I feel like it has allowed me to work better under pressure.

MIKA ELLISON: Is there anything that you are both looking forward to in the next couple of weeks?

ELLA JEFFRIES: The second Monthly edition coming out. It’s definitely going to be a grind, so I’m hoping that we can get it out. But that’s definitely something I’m looking forward to, ending the year on a high note.

WENDY ZHU: I’m excited for the special issues to come out. So I’m excited to see how it all turned out. I do also think this is going to be a bit of a grind. I’m not scared. I’m not too worried. But I know that it’s going to take a lot of work. And hopefully it’s not a super long night, but I think the designers are very capable this quarter, and I’m excited to see the work that they’ll do.

MIKA ELLISON: Okay, now for the fun questions. What’s your favorite newsroom snack?

WENDY ZHU: I feel like I get MOD (Pizza) a lot when I’m here, just because it’s convenient. And we’re here for a pretty long time. So if you want my Mod order, I’ve kind of changed it up. Like sometimes I’ll change up the sauce but this is usually what I get: spicy red sauce and then arugula or spinach depending on what they have, and then I’ll get mozzarella and asiago and then I usually get pepperoni, mushroom, onion and banana peppers on top, which is a very interesting combination. I used to get a pesto (pizza) with ricotta, and then I just got sick of it because I ate it too much. But then, in terms of the sauces I used to get like balsamic glaze on top, but then I got sick of it. So I had to change it. So now I get the SrirRancha, like this Sriracha ranch combination, and hot honey.

ELLA JEFFRIES: I loved the PopCorners when they were here. I heard we have a box stash somewhere and haven’t opened it yet. So I’m waiting. But when we don’t have that, I’m definitely snacking on the Dum-Dums consistently, because I feel like I can make one last a solid 30 minutes. So it makes the time go by faster.

MIKA ELLISON: What do you do in your life to create balance as a student journalist?

ELLA JEFFRIES: Going into this quarter, I purposely did not sign up for any early classes. I don’t have a class that starts before 11:30 a.m. For me, that’s my biggest thing, it’s sleep. I just need at least seven hours to function, and if I get that, I’ll be totally fine. So that’s just what I needed to do.

WENDY ZHU: I would say the same and also just not over committing yourself. I feel like a lot of people here at Northwestern, they feel like they need to do every single club and get involved in every single thing, and it’s great to have multiple interests and like get involved in student orgs and stuff and have jobs and stuff, but I think just knowing how much you can handle is really good.

MIKA ELLISON: What’s one important piece of advice you would give to the next person in your position?

ELLA JEFFRIES: A piece of advice I would say is take advantage of the fact that you can get press passes, like I have a reporter going to the Lizzo concert tonight. She’s a huge Lizzo fan. So we are able to make stuff like that happen.

WENDY ZHU: I think honestly, the best advice for anyone who’s on (the) edit(orial) board is just like, be friends with the people who are like on your desk. I don’t really have a specific desk, but just building that relationship with your reporters or like with your staffers, I think is good because I feel like it’s nice if you can just be friends with them too, and have a good time in the newsroom, because you spend so much time together.


MIKA ELLISON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Mika Ellison. Thanks for listening to another episode of The Weekly. This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is myself, the digital managing editors are Ava Mandoli and Erica Schmitt and the editor-in-chief is Alex Perry. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear next week’s episode on Monday.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @MikaEllison23

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