After joining a newspaper four years ago with zero knowledge of journalism, I am confident to leave with an incredible depth of strategies and lessons from my teachers, colleagues and friends.
I can remember Welcome Day in 2012. I finished four years of speech and debate in high school where I grew from a shy, reserved person to one of the best debaters in New York State. I even assumed leadership for two years.
I felt eager to try something new and see how I could go. Out of all the clubs, just two caught my attention. One was a political group, the other was The Knight News.
I read political websites like Alternet, Salon, In These Times, Firedoglake and The Nation in high school, so I figured a newspaper would fit me well. Despite not writing on national news stories, a blessing in disguise, I was interested in learning more.
I decided to avoid a journalism minor because I considered writing a hobby and was preoccupied by my two majors and minor. Besides, my love for economics and political science was too strong, and I could not walk away from it.
At first, I struggled with the style given. What was AP Style? What’s a lede? Who are all of these people?
Eventually, I began to learn more from the editors in my first and second year. I read journalists like Kevin Gosztola and Alexa O’Brien to learn more about writing. It worked.
Fast forward to 2013, a time when I got my first job. What exactly it is, I am not sure. It is either working at an animal shelter or Firedoglake, a national news outlet. I prefer the latter.
Firedoglake taught me a lot about being a writer and living in a community, especially working besides people like Kit O’Connell, Jane Hamsher, Kevin Gosztola and, of course, my editor Ellie Elliott. I learned so much there, and it felt like a class I never wanted to end. It is the best event to happen to me during college, and no one can take that away from me.
The lessons I learned at the site became my guide when I led the newspaper in September 2014. Jaime Zahl and I shared the title of Editor-in-Chief, and knew we needed to increase publication and content. Before us, we only published a few issues and staff was nearly 10 people.
Things did not start off smoothly. Financial issues, seeking out new people and more made it difficult at first. But, eventually, we were on the same page and pushed forth with a set system.
In the meantime, my writing improved. I began to think more about my topics and followed stories I felt were not covered well. This helped a lot in my career today, and something I still follow.
Yet, more importantly, I entered a leadership position that I knew would come with pressure and challenges. The best part of what I enjoyed as a leader was working with my colleagues and even new people writing for the newspaper without much experience. I sympathized with their experience considering I was in the same position years before.
Regardless, we accomplished a lot at the newspaper. Perhaps my favorite achievement, out of many of course, is the nomination of the Associated Collegiate Press’ Story of the Year award.
Personally, I felt proud by the fact we received such a nomination as it reflected our ability to achieve something grand. The efforts through copy editing, layout, editing and more are often not shown in our newspaper. But this award showed the changes we made paid off, and I am proud of that.
The past few months have gone by without me giving much thought of leaving something I was a part of for four years. However, when Sarah Jaffe visited for an event we held, it slowly dawned on me that it was all over. I would never write again for a student-run newspaper that I worked with others to create and craft.
What’s comforting is this will not end. The structure we set up is similar to a worker cooperative among the editorial staff and the journalists working for us will undoubtedly benefit from a growing profile for the newspaper. Even I’m surprised who reads the newspaper outside of the campus.
Of course, I fear for the journalism field. You can’t go too far without someone calling for the doom of print journalism or event digital too. News sites like Buzzfeed and The Guardian are laying off their employers. Even Al-Jazeera America, called as a “freaking stimulus package” for journalists by Jaffe years ago, closed down its studios after mismanagement and shrinking revenues by the Qatari government.
It makes me wonder whether it’s still responsible to speak with students about joining the media field.
The answer? It is.
The writing involved is challenging, but rewarding. Working with a team is such a unique experience. Even meeting others on campus, small little worlds as I like to imagine it, is wonderful.
I am thankful for my team here. It was just four years ago that I joined the newspaper and, in compensating for my lack of journalism knowledge, used lessons from music to train myself for each story. I still use such lessons of course, but am now confident in sharing my knowledge of the field.
I do not like writing op-eds, commentaries or, the dreaded, thinkpiece. But, I feel like recapping my experience here is so important. It is a piece of me leaving after all.
Without this paper, I’m not sure my college experience would have been so worthwhile as it was today. So thank you to all who made it what it is, and I hope the seeds we’ve planted in the newspaper take root as magnificent flowers in the future.