I don’t usually resort to numbers when trying to elucidate the meaning or importance of an event. They lack the pliability and personality of words. As my tenure as editor-in-chief draws to a close, however, I can’t help but to crunch their stilted forms into something resembling meaning.
This is my 80th issue of The Hill News . In the past four years, I have seen this paper grow from eight to 12 pages, eight of which are now in color as opposed to the original one (the front page). An increase in pages warranted an increase in staff, and we’ve added extra section editors, as well as two digital editors. Our digital presence has expanded tremendously, and we’ve also hit the soundwaves of KSLU with Hill News Radio, a project to which I owe a great amount of gratitude to the fine people at the Arts Annex.
This semester, we’ve welcomed a new crop of writers, many from the very promising class of 2020. We’ve stacked our incoming editorial team with some of our most thoughtful and committed staff writers, and I am proud to hand the editor-in-chief title down to Daniel Banta. He’s a sharp mind with a knack for satire and I’m confident that these pages will remain as lively and relevant as ever with him at the helm.
Okay. Sorry. Record scratch. I’m going to be honest. This is hard to write, and I’m doing an admittedly poor job of being explicit. Mostly because I keep looking at the number 80 and can’t get past it. My biggest regret is attempting to use numbers to quantify what this paper has meant to me over the past four years. I knew I couldn’t trust them.
In the fall of 2013, I attended an information session in Student Center Room 305. A nice room with contemporary technology and a disheveled futon in a back office space overlooking the architectural relic that is the Dean extension. Two weeks later, I wrote my first article about various First-Years’ experiences at the Ticker, and my ascent into the gritty world of hard-hitting journalism began.
The Hill News office quickly became a second home. A place where the upperclassmen editors talked fast about places and people on campus I’d never seen or met. I watched as they swapped article topics, preached the good word of the A.P. Style Guide, and worked late into Wednesday night to lay out pages. It was a world I instantly knew I wanted to inhabit. A conversation I wanted to join.
I’m still not as cool as the upperclassmen of my underclass days, but now that I’m on the flip side, I’m not sure it’s possible to be objectively cool in this industry, though there’s an art (and necessity) to appearing that way. Some of our hiccup highlights include accidentally changing the font size from 10 to 12 on the front page, misquoting students in articles, losing pages and sleep to an irrecoverable digital abyss, misspelling writers’ names, or mis-crediting photos. There were times when we should’ve had guts to publish or pursue controversial leads on campus. There were times when we didn’t double-check our data and ended up publishing overblown figures. Those numbers. They’ll getcha. Even in our strongest issues, we battle the devil in the details but rarely escape without a typo or two.
A million mistakes and many late nights later, I’m about to exit whatever whirlwind conversation into which I’ve gradually joined. The greatest gift this publication has given me is that of knowing this campus through the process of discovering the voices that make it such an interesting place to live and go to school. It has taught me to ask more questions and never to assume what I don’t know to be true about the people around me. There are stories in every corner of campus – a one to one student to story ratio, if you will. It’s okay to take risks, to be a little controversial as long as an article is based in fact. This is essential to creating a dialogue among peers, faculty, staff, and community members (from each of which we’ve received letters to the editor in varying degrees of concurrence and dissent on articles through the years). Be humble when approached with disagreement, but stick to convictions when necessary.
Every Wednesday night, I have been privileged to head the greatest collaborative project to which I’ve ever contributed, and arguably the only group project I don’t loathe. I owe this to the team of smart and curious minds that make up the editorial board. Every Friday morning has been Christmas morning. You think I’m being romantic, but even after poring over our pages for hours before they go to print, the tangible result is always a sweet surprise. It is delightful to hold hours of work in my hands and to think about the network of people all across campus that made it possible. This year, our hard work was rewarded with third place for General Excellence in the annual New York Press Association’s Better College Newspaper contest.
Finally, before I retreat to the back office with a box of Kleenex and a bottle of celebratory champagne, I want to thank you for parking your mind here for a little bit, for lending this print the scan of your eyes, for welcoming text through your retinas and into the processing hub of your brain. Thank you for doing it every week, or once a month, or maybe just right now for the first time ever. It has been truly humbling to be read by you, humbling to delineate our community with these pages.
I still can’t quite define what this paper means to me. Maybe I won’t know until I don’t come back to it every week in the fall. 80 issues, 960 pages letter, and I think I’m finally speechless.