Reflections on the Beginning at the End

The job of writing this, my final piece for this semester’s print edition as an editor for The Vanguard, came upon me very quickly. The reason for this was a combination of previous pushed deadlines and the lack of ready internet and missed emails containing deadline reminders. Plus, the long and hard work that it took to move in with my girlfriend Mackenzie. On Wednesday, our editor in chief, Michael, asked me what I would be contributing for the next issue. To this I asked when the next deadline was. He said it was Friday. I hoped that he could tell by my raised eyebrows and dropped jaw that the shock I was experiencing was genuine.

So here I sit on the night of the deadline, computer in my lap, doing a last-minute reflection on the time I’ve spent at our school’s newspaper. Depending on how I decide to attempt my transfer to Temple University, I may still be taking classes at CCP next semester. I may contribute some words to the publication then, but this will be my last semester on staff as an editor of The Vanguard.

I’ve held many positions at the paper. Starting with Copy Editor, I moved sequentially to Staff Writer, Managing Editor, Editor in Chief and ended up as Web Editor. Each of these positions held many responsibilities. At one point, it was my job to tidy up the office but I must admit, it’s something I was not good at. I feel that it’s a necessity for a news office to have noticeable stacks of old editions of the paper. During my time, our tiny office was home to at least two.

It was in Professor Nate House’s writing for mass media class that I first decided to give journalism a real shot. He taught us that if you want to be a good writer you have to be a good reader. Once he asked the class what publications we read, and I was proud to raise my hand to say that I read and still read the New York Times. I have a digital subscription now but at that time I had a weekend subscription and was getting the Saturday and Sunday editions delivered to my doorstep. It can be said that print is well on its way to dying but every now and then it feels good to flip through a copy of the Times, the Inquier, or the Daily News.

My piece in the previous issue gave our readers a guide on how to prepare their bicycles for spring riding. This is fitting because my very first article in the paper told the story of how the lines marking the bike lanes in South Philadelphia were fading away. I began with writing about bikes, and I finished up on the same thread.

For that story, I spent a long time calling representatives of the city’s Streets Department and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia asking for information and quotes that would work for my story. By doing this, I learned another important part of journalism: you can’t be afraid to start conversations with people.  Apparently, the final product was good enough because Professor House asked if it would be okay to forward that story to the editor of what was then called The Student Vanguard.

It was then that I first met Justin Clarke, a truly talented writer and the man who taught me the ropes of being Editor in Chief.

One of my first interactions with him dealt with some typos I found in the first issue my work appeared in. One of them was my misspelled name. This has since become an accidental tradition amongst first-time contributors. After the issue came out, I wanted to show him how thorough I was in reading it, so in a couple of emails I informed him of every typo I found in the issue. He responded in a heated tone saying that the duty of editing stories fell mostly on him and that often, he can’t catch every mistake. It was at this point I was made copy editor, and I was off and running.

The tables were turned on me later when I became Editor in Chief and I was the one who had to deal with same embarrassment and headache of people coming to me with mistakes they found in each issue.

After Professor House stepped down as our advisor, Professor Randy LoBasso took over. It was and still is an honor to be advised by him. At the time he joined the paper, he was the head staff writer for Philadelphia Weekly and I was a regular reader of his work. He helped us a great deal by getting us further established on social media and helped us boost our followers and readership.

As I look over my list of stories on our website, I’m reminded of how fun this experience has been and how exhausting. Professor House once said that journalism is truly the best job in the world, and I agree with him. It is sometimes hard to see, though, when sources are being quiet, usable quotes are hard to find in recorded interviews, recording devices stop working, the software used to lay out the paper crashes, or at the last minute you see that there is still a full page of an issue to fill and you have no content to fill it with.

It’s usually in hindsight that I’d realize it is in fact a great job.

During my time at the paper, I’ve won awards for my writing, photography and produced content that I’m proud of but I’m looking forward to the future. It’s said that you’re only as good as your last story, but I feel I’m only as good as my next story, whatever that’s going to be.

A special thanks to Professors House and LoBasso for their invaluable guidance and to all the current and former Vanguard staff members. Also, thanks to Linda Wallace in the public relations office for being willing to give me more comments than “no comments” for stories involving the school.

Vanguard, thank you. It’s been fun.

 

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