Every Daily Campus writer looks forward to writing their senior column. It’s where you get to tell the story of the first time you walked into The Daily Campus building and went to your first section meeting. But where I differ from those cliches is I’m writing my senior column five months after completing school, now employed with my first full-time job in a major city away from my hometown. This perspective allows me to be able to look back on my time with The Daily Campus in a new light.
I walked into my first News meeting late and tried to sneak in the back unnoticed. The News Editor at the time, Marlese Lessing, stopped the meeting to allow me to introduce myself and answer that week’s ice breaker, which was, in true Marlese fashion, “What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?” Already frazzled from arriving late and my face immediately turning its signature bright red from even an ounce of unwanted attention, I scrambled to form an answer.
“I’m Ashley, I’m a freshman journalism major, and I don’t know, I guess I don’t really eat weird things. I think it’s really weird when people eat, like, insects and stuff,” is what I managed to put together. The room was silent. “Okay then …” Marlese said, before going on with the meeting.
What followed after were three and a half years dedicated to the News section, spanning from my first week as a freshman to the day I graduated last December. After earning my way into a paid staff writing position, to eventually stepping in as Associate News Editor and then later taking over as News Editor, I truly learned the ins and outs of how The Daily Campus operated. This is what I learned.
Editors have hard jobs. My first day as News Editor, a UConn student passed away on campus. I was thrown into covering a tragedy and worried that I wasn’t cut out for the job. It was mentally exhausting. It made me realize how thankful I was to have an incredible Associate News Editor, Taylor Harton, who truly stepped up to her new role and supported me more than just during that tragedy, but continuously during our time working together. As News Editor, I worked with a great staff of writers. They made my tenure as an editor enjoyable and incredibly rewarding. I’ve seen them do great things in the last semester I’ve been gone, and I know they all will continue to succeed.
Walking into the production room for the first time is scary, until you see a familiar face or a designated place to sit. Then someone puts on music, you have a box of Insomnia Cookies in front of you and an InDesign document that quits just when you’ve made good progress, and everything feels comfortable. You grow close with your production night staff and you look forward to going to work. Who would’ve thought?
Writing for a completely student-run newspaper is rewarding. You learn lessons you don’t get from just sitting in a classroom (I do, though, have many to thank in the UConn journalism department, but this unfortunately is not the space to do so). You get angry emails from students, professors and the UConn and Mansfield community. You go viral on social media. You mess up and spell someone’s name wrong and you feel awful, but you learn from it and never do it again. You make connections in the industry, and pick up tools that help you in your future career. You form different kinds of friendships; that I will always value.
I didn’t leave UConn and The Daily Campus and start a journalism career. I was lucky enough to instead put my journalism skills towards a full-time communications position that is allowing me to focus on different kinds of work and discover what I’m truly passionate about. The Daily Campus gave me so many tools and experiences to set me up where I am today, and I can’t thank it enough for that.