Column - The year is over, the memories will last forever
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 00:04
During the past week, I’ve found myself wondering what my life, what my college experience, would be like had I not worked at The Daily Athenaeum for the last four years.
It’s a possibility I can’t even begin to imagine.
Even though it’s hard to fathom, I haven’t been able to figure out how to write a farewell column. I had all but given up on writing one until Friday morning when I read The Crimson White, the student newspaper at the University of Alabama.
Its outgoing editor-in-chief, Victor Luckerson, also couldn’t figure out a way to write what the paper meant to him. So, he told a story instead.
He wrote about the devastating tornadoes that shook Tuscaloosa just days after the new staff took control last spring. How they all jumped in a car to find a building with electricity so they could continue to report the news. He said there was no smiling for almost a week because of the heartbreaking stories he and his staff were uncovering, but it helped the staff come together.
Mistakes were made along the way, he said, but the staff learned from them. And that was the beauty of student journalism.
"I did not teach myself these things," he wrote. "I learned them; not from journalism professors or media advisers, but from the hardworking men and women of The Crimson White who have developed from colleagues into lifelong friends."
So, instead of trying to put together words about how the DA has been such a major part of my life, I’m going to follow Victor’s footsteps. I’m going to tell you a story.
I was sitting at my desk at 10:06 p.m., just six days into my job as Managing Editor. We were literally minutes away from sending the final edition of the year to the printer, but then plans changed.
Tweets started flooding everyone’s timeline about an important statement President Barack Obama was about to make. The problem is no one knew what it was about.
So, we waited for the announcement. We didn’t send away the paper. The few editors who were left at the office (most were studying for finals) were huddled around the television trying to figure out what was going to happen.
After delays to the announcement, it finally broke on Twitter that Osama bin Laden had been killed. Still, we all waited for Obama to confirm the news.
At this point, our plan was to just throw the story from the Associated Press on our front page and be done with it. Our midnight deadline with the printer was approaching too fast.
But then, Twitter exploded again. Students were celebrating all around Morgantown.
We didn’t have any clue what to do. None of us had never really been in a situation like that before.
We only had one option, though. We had to localize this story.
We frantically called every photographer on staff in an attempt to get pictures. I ran, literally ran, to Sunnyside with a recorder, a note pad and a video camera to interview students running crazily through the street.
It was a scene I’ll never forget. I had never seen Morgantown so alive. Cars with megahorns were driving around town chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A." The singing of ‘Country Roads’ broke out before it was over. It was unreal.
It all culminated with a massive couch fire and a cluster of students at the top of High Street. Hundreds of students crowded the streets celebrating.
Still, we had a job to do. It was tough not to just stop and look at what was happening around me, I had to tell myself I could do that later.
It was after 2 a.m. by the time we got back to the office. We had all the interviews we needed : members of the WVU ROTC, students who had served time in Afghanistan and students who had family members killed in the tragic events of 9/11. We had hundreds of photos from around Morgantown. And we had video.
Everyone then did whatever they could to help. An editor was laying out the front page, our art director was getting pictures up online as fast as he could and I was editing video. The other editors were making sure the sections of the paper were ready to go. Everyone was doing whatever they could to help, regardless of their job description.
It was a night I’ll remember forever. When we sent the paper away just before 4 a.m. I sat at my desk and thought about everything. It was then I knew it was going to be a good year.
We were the only college newspaper on the east coast to report the story. I was woken up the next morning, just three hours after I finally went to sleep, with phone calls and emails from media outlets around the country wanting to use our content.
It wasn’t about the attention, though. We did a hell of a job covering the story and localizing it, but it was about how we did it and what we learned from it.
We had no one telling us what to do, nothing to base our coverage off of. It was the students making spur-of-the-moment decisions. The editors there that night learned more in six hours than anything we’ve learned in classes.
That’s been exactly what my experience has been like at the DA. We’ve made mistakes along the way, but there hasn’t been one that we didn’t learn from.
So, when I look back on what my college experience would be like without the DA, it is really is hard to imagine.
The last year has been the most memorable year of my life, not because I spent roughly 50 hours a week in the office and rarely got sleep, but because I was able to learn alongside people who I can now call my best friends.
I want to thank the readers; without you we wouldn’t have a purpose. But, most importantly, I want to thank my coworkers who have made this place special.
I’ve not only learned more than I could ever imagine, but I’ve gained lifelong memories and lifelong friends along the way.