2024-25 FAQ Page

Is being a part of the Smoke Signal an elective?

Joining the Smoke Signal staff means the Journalism class is a part of your schedule.  The class and the staff are one. Please be sure you have an available elective in your schedule in order to be eligible. Most applicants are rising Juniors, but we do admit rising Sophomores and Seniors. We do not admit rising Freshmen.

How does the Smoke Signal operate?

Although we are MSJ’s official school newspaper, we are independent in that we publish our content without administrative review. We begin the monthly cycle by choosing stories for each respective section, which are News, Opinion, Feature, Centerspread, Arts and Entertainment, Sports, Photos, and Web. Students then interview, conduct research and write several drafts. Finally, pages are finished and turned into the printer a few days before you all get to see it!

How much work does the Smoke Signal entail?

Work in the Smoke Signal is cyclical. Usually, more work falls on the staff writers in the first two weeks of each monthly cycle as they draft their stories and the editors are busier as they prepare pages in the second half of the cycle. A staff member of the Smoke Signal can expect their workload to be the equivalent of taking another class.

Do writers get to choose what they want to write?

Yes and no. In the beginning of a cycle, staff members bring in potential story ideas, editors decide on stories, writers pitch for the stories they’re interested in writing, and editors assign writers to stories.

Do you only admit writers to join the staff?

While first-year students are staff writers for all sections, we also value the skills of photographers, artists, and designers.

Where does the Smoke Signal receive the money for printing?

The Smoke Signal is a completely self-sustaining business. Besides writers and editors, we have managers that help run the newspaper; the ads managers are in charge of corresponding with local businesses. The money we receive from advertisements provides the money for printing.

How can I apply for an editor position?

Students may apply for editor positions at the end of their first year of journalism in a separate application process.

Can we turn in our application to one of the current staff members?

You cannot give a completed application to a student. You must personally come to M2 to turn in your application.

What should I consider before I apply?

Make sure you have room in your class schedule to take one period of Journalism. All journalists must take the class. There are no exceptions.

How many students will you be accepting?

We do not release that information because the number differs every year.

How many people usually apply?

This number is not released and again, it differs every year.

How many rising sophomores will you accept? How many rising juniors? Seniors?

Our process does not depend on grade level. Our classes contain mixed levels of first-year, second-year, and third-year students. We look at individual skill sets rather than the grade level.

What advice do you have for applicants?

Firstly, when filling out the application, make sure you read and understand every part of the application. Confirm that you have the time and effort available next year to take this class, and avoid taking the Smoke Signal and Yearbook. Provide complete answers and complete all necessary supplementary materials.

If I do get in, can I just write for one newspaper section?

All writers will write for every section of the paper.

What kind of applicants is the Smoke Signal looking for?

We want somebody who has a solid writing foundation, but that does not mean we only accept AP or honors students. We look for applicants with a wide variety of skills and qualities. There is no one ideal applicant.

Who sees my application?

Only the graduating senior editors will be viewing applications.

May I turn in my application after the deadline?

Our deadline is strict and enforced; we will not accept late or incomplete applications.

My teachers never assigned any writing assignments. What should I do?

All applicants must submit graded work. In special situations, please email eic@thesmokesignal.org with an explanation and we may consider your case.

What kind of format should my application have?

All applications must be fully typed.

Can I submit my artwork?

You are encouraged and welcome to submit any artwork, but make sure the size of the supplementary material is appropriate. Please scan your art and then include the file both as part of your physical application and as an email attachment to eic@thesmokesignal.org .

Does everyone receive an interview?

Unfortunately, not all applicants are given an interview.

How hard is the class?

We do plenty of fun bonding activities, but we also work hard. It is a front-loaded class, and the first couple of months will be especially difficult.

Can I talk to Ms. Cohen to help my chances?

Unfortunately, Ms. Cohen will not be open to personal interviews. Please adhere solely to the formal application process.

Can incoming freshmen apply?

No, incoming freshmen are ineligible to apply, but we encourage students to apply as incoming sophomores, juniors, and seniors. 

Will I get my application back? 

We will return all original artwork that is attached with your application.

How will my teacher submit recommendations?

You will print out the recommendation form (as linked on the application) for your teacher and they will submit it to Mrs. Cohen’s box in the office.

Feel free to contact eic@thesmokesignal.org with any questions! Best of luck!