By Sydney Van Dreason, Class of 2016
For the last three years of my high school career, I had the privilege and honor of serving as a Staff Writer, Managing Editor, and Editor in Chief of The Tornado Times.
Journalism was never something I expected to enjoy. When I initially started working on staff, I had no idea what to expect, and it was a little intimidating to have to learn entirely new writing skills and ways of crafting content. However, scary as it was, I am grateful for the leadership and teamwork that I was exposed to with my first team of student journalists. Their level of communication and content management inspired me to do better, and I tried my hardest to learn as much as I could about writing in different journalism fields (news, opinion, sports, features, etc.), mastering AP style, and building my design skills in InDesign and Photoshop. Throughout my time working with The Tornado Times, I was able to build the foundational journalism skills I needed to be able to take off with my journalism projects in college.
I started studying English and Creative Writing at Florida Gulf Coast University in August 2016. During my orientation, one of the events we were brought to was a Student-Involvement Fair, and I made a beeline for the student newspaper table. I couldn’t wait to continue working in the world of journalism for another student-run newspaper. I became heavily involved in the opinion and student life sections of the weekly publication, writing 1-2 articles per week as needed. Within less than a year, I was selected to fill the position of Assistant Opinion Editor, which I covered for 14 months before moving on from Eagle News.
Today, the journalism skills and experience that I initially gained in high school helped me earn the position of Content Coordinator for Best Version Media, an international media company that helps connect businesses and local residents together through the publication of family-friendly, community magazines. Since July 2019, I have served as the primary creator, writer, and editor of all written content for monthly issues that are distributed to over 4,000 homes in nine East Estero communities. For each issue, I write a 2–3-page feature article about a residential family or couple; a calendar of 10-12 local events; and 2-3 general family-friendly content, which includes crafts, health and safety tips, how-to articles, and places to visit in the local area. I am further responsible for conducting line-editing and page-proofs of each publication before they are sent to print.
While I mainly work independently in this role, I am also tasked with maintaining effective and efficient communication between the magazine’s local publishers, the head designer, the contracted photographer, and all residents who I work with for features articles or content submissions. It can be overwhelming at times, but knowing different journalism and AP style techniques makes life much easier, and it helps me keep an eye out for consistent photography and design elements that make each issue creative, engaging, and fun to read.
For three months, I was given the opportunity to publish exclusive sports features through Best Version Media’s launch of their online sports website, BVM Sports. During this time, I interviewed individual athletes, wrote full-length features articles, and had them published online for a wider audience.
One of my favorite parts about both of these roles at Best Version Media is that I have a golden opportunity to learn about the communities around me and the people who live in them. As I learn more about the residents and share their stories, I have become closer to my community, and I have noticed that everyone gets excited to read the issues and nominate their friends and neighbors to be featured. It’s an awesome feeling knowing that I played a key role in spreading this kind of happiness throughout a community.
This semester is my final semester before I graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University with a master’s degree in English. While my intent is to continue writing and editing in the future, I currently plan to do so as an editor for novels or other creative works. However, as I consider my plans for post-graduation, I believe my journalistic skills and experience writing for print and online publications will open many doors for me, and I’m excited to see what comes next.