Around this time last year, I was in a room with all of my newly selected section editors to go over plans for the summer and some goals for the upcoming year. One of the first was simply “don’t burn the building down,” a phrase that stuck and became a recurring sentiment throughout the year, sometimes as a joke and sometimes as a comforting reminder things weren’t as bad as they could be. And while the phrase was often said with lighthearted jest, it initially stemmed from fear, not of arson but rather of incompetence. I was scared I’d end up making some mistake that irreparably harmed the newspaper or leave the organization I had grown to love over the last four years worse off than when I had started.
In part, this was because, on paper, there was no logical basis for me to be editor-in-chief. I majored in molecular and cell biology, took no formal journalism classes and was the opinion editor for two years while every previous editor-in-chief I had worked under had been former news editors. It was absolutely baffling that anyone would think to hand me the keys to the building and trust me to run an entire newspaper. Yet, that is exactly what happened, and I will always be thankful for the people who took a chance on me and gave me one of the most meaningful experiences of my senior year.
It’s been a hell of a year at The Daily Campus. We put out a great physical product five days a week. We covered some huge stories ranging from the closure of the UConn Co-Op and plans for a new student recreation facility to a Taylor Swift donation at HuskyTHON and the UConn women’s basketball team's historic fourth consecutive championship. We finally have a website we can take pride in and that lets us function as a true media organization with coverage even when we aren’t printing. Our photo department has just begun to dip their toes in video content. Our building finally has signage so people can stop asking about the old run-down shack next to Moe’s. And we were able to secure agreements and organize our budget so that future cohorts of editors and executives will be able to have more time and resources to bring The Daily Campus even further.
And absolutely none of these things I can fully or even partially take credit for. I was incredibly lucky to have an amazing supporting cast as editor-in-chief. Our talented staff of writers, editors, photographers, copyeditors and designers is the reason we are able to put out such great content every day. Jack Mitchell, our digital editor, single-handedly built our new website and took over our presence online and on social media, bringing it to a place I could’ve never expected at the start of the year. On the business side of things, I have to thank Jess Baicker and Natalie Hitt who have been instrumental in not only improving our advertising, but also in our long term financial planning. Rebecca Herman, our advisor, was a great resource for me to not only work on larger administrative matters, but to develop myself as a leader. And lastly I need to thank our managing editor Matt Zabierek who, though technically his boss, has been my partner through all of this. I am incredibly thankful for his work ethic and will truly miss his personality every night, without which I know producing The Daily Campus would not have been nearly as enjoyable or led to as good of a final product.
In my, now former, office, I only had two pieces of décor I could call my own: a Syracuse doormat and a printout of a Bill Watterson quote. The former was because I wanted something that was familiar with getting walked all over by UConn students, and the latter was because as graduation day inched closer, it only became more meaningful.
“You know what’s weird? Day by day nothing seems to change. But pretty soon, everything’s different.”
For better or for worse, Watterson was right. Nothing ever seemed to change in the day-to-day grind of being editor-in-chief. But looking back from the finish line, somewhere between all of the late nights of production, the weekly meetings, the mini hoops, the scattered Blaze Pizza boxes, the Spotify playlists, the mistakes and the triumphs, a lot changed; both as an organization (as mentioned above), but more importantly as a group of people. If your friends are the family you choose, then a newspaper staff is the family you unexpectedly find over time. And like any family, they were there to celebrate your successes, support you in times of need and consistently cause your stress acne to flare up.
This past year has been particularly meaningful because it is likely the last time I will get to work in a newsroom. In the fall, I start life as a medical student at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, a venture equal parts exciting and terrifying. So if this year as editor-in-chief was my last foray in journalism, I’m glad it was with this group and will take the lessons I’ve learned into the next stages of my life. I know The Daily Campus will change in the years to come because of how much it has changed in just the four years I have been a part of it. But the memories I made and the people I met are something I will always have, regardless of what happens in the future.
So to my staff, my friends, my Daily Campus family, I say thank you for a great year and don’t be strangers if you’re ever in Charlottesville. And to everyone that is not a part of the paper, I encourage you to pick one up or go online and support the blood, sweat and tears that are put into this organization every day.
I wish next year’s group of editors and executives the best of luck. And whatever great things I know you'll end up doing, just make sure you don’t burn the building down. Because as long as it’s standing, there will always be great work and even greater memories happening between those walls.
Kayvon Ghoreshi was editor-in-chief of The Daily Campus for the 2015-2016 school year. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.