Feringa v. UK deadline: 1-0

Every day, the editorial staff at the UK wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? A weekly look behind the scenes.

Wednesday morning is an important time at the UK. That is when we pull out all the stops to deliver the weekly newsletter. It has to be ‘out the door’ around lunch on Wednesday. This moment is important: just as important as the 8 o’clock news starting at 8 instead of 8:30.

In journalism, deadlines are sacred. For the UK, noon on Wednesday is sacred. Anything that comes in late is too late, and will not make it into the newsletter. It’s that simple.

On those Wednesday mornings, designer René Lapoutre makes sure that everything is sorted out graphics-wise and senior editor Sjef Weller is the proverbial bull in a china shop as he literally and figuratively dots the i’s and crosses the t’s: ‘Work harder, people!’ Others lend a hand when and wherever necessary to ensure that we meet that deadline.

I just happened to have a meeting with the editorial board scheduled at noon last Wednesday. That board functions as a sounding board for the UK and consists of RUG students and staff, as well as ‘outside’ journalists. The editorial board supplies us with both wanted and unwanted advice (and, when necessary, a good scolding).

Nobel Prize

Around noon that day, the newsletter was just about ready and the editorial board had just gotten underway. Then, one of the UK editors stormed into the room with the announcement that Ben Feringa had won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry!

Sorry, editorial board. Have another cup of coffee, enjoy the sandwiches, but I have to go talk to my editors. After all, this hasn’t happened at the RUG since Frits Zernike in 1953.

Let’s put our heads together. Has it been confirmed? Yes, it’s a tweet from the Nobel committee in Stockholm. Quick, let’s publish the news on ukrant.nl, Facebook and Twitter. Do we have all the information we need? No. But that’s okay; we can come back to it later. Two editors rushed off to Zernike, camera in tow, to speak with Feringa himself.

A bit of luck

We needed a proper background story quickly. Who is Ben Feringa? Can someone explain what a molecular motor is? Or a nano car? What does Feringa mean when he talks about a tiny submarine going through our bodies and delivering the right substances at the right time to the right place?

Turns out we were in luck (or maybe it was foresight): nearly a year earlier, our science editor Christien Boomsma did a great and extensive interview with the brand new Nobel Prize winner. That story still held up. We updated it and published it as fast we could. ‘The boy with the box of legos’, the new headline proclaimed. We thought it fitting, since Feringa plays with molecules the way children play with the well-known plastic building bricks.

The Nobel Prize for Chemistry: great for the RUG, even greater for Ben Feringa and his team. The entire editorial staff congratulates you.

9 o’ clock news

And now, back to how this edition of ‘At the UK’ started: the holy deadline. Did we make it on Wednesday, October 5?

No, we didn’t make it. That day, the 8 o’clock news started at 9, so to speak. We did manage to cover the news about Feringa extensively in our newsletter, including backgrounds. But that meant the deadline had to give, and not just a little.

Feringa, 1; UK deadline, 0. But we forgive him.

Rob Siebelink, interim editor-in-chief


11 October 2016 | 26-10-2016, 10:53