On my first day as Editor-in-Chief, the former Editor-in-Chief locked the keys to the building (along with my car and dorm keys) in a closet. On my last Sunday as Editor-in-Chief I locked my keys – and myself – in the very same closet.
Can you get anymore full circle?
To be clear, I don’t like closed spaces. Especially closed spaces when there is no way out.
The door was locked from the inside and the outside, I had the key with me in the closet and there was only one other person in the building. Someone I barely knew and who quite likely didn’t even know this closet existed.
My first instinct was to bang really, really hard and loud on the door. I kind of whimpered as I felt the pressure and heat of the inescapable room rising. I took a few sharp breaths as I squeezed my eyes shut.
There was no way out. This was it. I would end my career at the DC stuck in the downstairs closet, surrounded by unused notebooks, pens and coiled computer cables.
I let out a sob as I banged the door again.
But then I remembered where I was, who I was and all of the things I had learned since my first day in this building almost four years ago, when I showed up 30 minutes early and attended the news meeting by accident. I had come to the DC because of a friend (thanks Annie) and the idea of writing something about food. I was a nutritional sciences major after all, it was only logical.
But the news meeting clearly wasn’t the place where writing about the best way to make a peanut butter sandwich was acceptable (although the DC would eventually let me write about how much I love them). Everyone around me seemed to know what was going on and stories were flying off the whiteboard so fast I couldn’t keep track. Instead of taking any of the stories the then news editor (who I must admit I assumed was a professor) proposed, I pitched writing a story about students living in the on-campus hotel. It ran the following Monday on the front page and I still think picking up the copy in the Buckley Dining Hall and seeing my byline for the first time might be my proudest moment at UConn.
I hadn’t known anything about how Reslife worked (frankly still confused) or how decisions at UConn were made. I didn’t know about budgets, or student populations expanding, or that for years study lounges across campus had been converted into triples and quads. But I learned. And above all that’s what I’ve taken away from the Daily Campus and that’s what it can offer every student if they’ll let it.
I learned what news was. I learned how to ask questions. I learned how to find the person or document with the answer to my question. I learned how to tell a story that people might actually want to read. I learned how to have fun when you’re on deadline. I learned how to let go of mistakes, and not to say sorry, but to accept that I messed up, fix it and promise to do better next time.
When I became an editor, and then an executive, I learned a whole lot more. This time about not telling people’s stories, but working with them. I learned how to teach. I learned how to discipline my peers (my least favorite). I learned how to stay up until 3 in the morning because the story was worth it or someone needed me. I learned how to plan, not just for tomorrow, but for the distant future. I learned to not be so scared of payroll and budgets (all thanks to Nancy and Devon). I learned that kindness, patience and understanding are the best tools I was ever given.
Most importantly, however, I learned to take a step back, slow down and solve the problem that was in front of me.
And so I did.
I had a phone. I knew the police (not because I’ve been in the blotter, but because I wrote it). I dialed 911.
“Hi, this is Julia Werth and I’m currently stuck in the closet of the Daily Campus, can you help me get out?”
Julia Werth is the editor in chief for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.