Mass Media Student Finds Her Voice at Southeast

As editor of the Arrow, the student newspaper at Southeast Missouri State University, senior Kara Hartnett gets to call the shots and have her voice heard.

As a freshman, she began developing an understanding of the importance of journalism and the impact journalism and mass media have on society. She knew she wanted to be a part of that and make sure people were sharing honest, objective news, and telling the community’s stories.

A Metamora, Illinois, native, Hartnett has served as the editor of the Arrow this school year. She is a double major in multimedia journalism and global cultures and languages, global studies option, Latin American civilization track.

She leads a team of student reporters and staff that she relies on to search for stories, conduct interviews and create the Arrow’s print and online editions.

During her time at Southeast, Hartnett has developed in ways she never expected. After researching career opportunities in her initial chosen major, forensic chemistry, she realized her passion was elsewhere. With the help of faculty mentors and guidance from a sorority sponsor, Hartnett found her purpose in journalism and the inspiration to pursue law school after graduation.

On some of her responsibilities as the editor of the Arrow:

Everything that goes into a newspaper, I’ve got my hands on in one way or another. I oversee the entire production of the Arrow. I oversee all the editors that run the different sections, so I’m in charge of all the content in print and online and the overall well-being of the newspaper. I work with the Southeast Missourian, who are our partners. I work with the marketing and the advertising side to ensure that the newspaper is making money, having promotions and staying relevant on campus. It’s a cool job, and I get to see all the stories that are coming through.

Another cool thing is that it’s so closely tied to the curriculum. We have a say in what the academic structure is like. When my professors are writing their syllabi, they are asking me what projects I want to see or what I want the Arrow to do that they can incorporate into their classes. We get to control to some level the caliber of the education that we’re receiving.

As editor of the Arrow, Kara Hartnett leads the student newspaper staff in a meeting.

It makes it a collaborative effort, between the editors, the professors and me. If we feel we don’t know something that we probably should know or if we want to produce a special section, we’ll let the professors know and they’ll incorporate it into the curriculum. If I think that the paper is lacking in, say, infographics, a professor can make that a focus in class. But we also get to set the standard of education. When I came in, we decided that if an article is not publishable in the Southeast Missourian, a professional newspaper, then it’s not good enough to be in our paper. Students have to publish a certain number of articles in the Arrow in order to pass their classes. So we changed the standard to which it is acceptable to pass or fail a class. We set it higher, made sure that people are writing stronger. When they graduate, they are going to be successful and good writers. So I thought that was a really cool part of the entire program.

On how she balances her work on the Arrow while being a full-time student:

My newsroom is very goal-oriented. We lay out a lot of goals and realize that we have to take them step-by-step. As far as managing the entire paper with other parts of my life, I try to delegate as much as possible — it’s usually pretty hard for me. I have a really good staff that is always willing to take on extra work and always does what they need to do for the paper, so that definitely helps.

On her favorite moments at the Arrow:

When we placed second in the running for a College Media Association Pinnacle Award presented at the Associated College Press/College Media Association Fall National College Media Convention, that was by far the proudest moment I’ve had with our newspaper. We were up against institutions that have 50,000 or more students, and then there was us at Southeast on that list with 12,000 students. I just think it really speaks to the caliber of the program and the caliber at which the paper was functioning, so that was by far the most incredible moment so far.

On why she chose Southeast:

There was no set reason for why I picked Southeast, but when I came here I figured it all out. Southeast was the perfect fit for me. I completely changed when I came to college. My parents don’t even recognize me anymore. When I was a finalist for Woman of the Year, and at the banquet, my dad said to Dr. Debbie Below, the vice president of enrollment management and student success, “Four years ago, we knew we weren’t going to be at this banquet.” I think that speaks to how much I’ve changed as a person, a leader and a scholar. If I went to a different university, I would not have been the person that I am today. I would not have taken on the leadership roles, taken my grades as seriously and gotten so active in the campus community. I don’t think I’d be a journalism major or editor of a newspaper if it wasn’t for Southeast. I don’t know why I came, but I’m so glad I did, because I’ve completely transformed, and now I’m going to have a better future because of it.

On her future goals:

Right now, the Arrow is going through a big transition. We’ve recently launched an app and converted to a bi-weekly publication, and we’re setting the groundwork for future editors and staff. I’m going to law school to study media law. I’m moving to Nashville (Tennessee) and hopefully going to Belmont or Vanderbilt.