Bitter young men: a senior farewell

27 April 2017
Giselle Willis, Managing Editor

Managing Editor Giselle Willis looks back on her four years with The Collegian, how she learned to combat apathy and how to handle news in a particularly toxic political environment.

When I first met them, I didn’t know the editors were bitter, I didn’t think they were particularly young and not all of them were men. I was just a freshman who still got enough sleep, but one thing’s for sure: I had no idea how much of an impact writing for the paper would have on me.

I had known that I wanted to write for The Collegian since I was in high school. When one of TU’s previous presidents, Dr. Orsak, was fired after only 74 days on the job, my dad showed me a copy of TU’s student newspaper. On the back, in the satire section, the editors had published a breaking news story on the truth behind Orsak’s dismissal — except most of it was redacted.

I figured these student journalists thought they were cheeky, and I wanted to be cheeky too. I wrote for the news section and for the “opinion” section, back when it was still called that. Maybe I was particularly bright-eyed or maybe they just felt bad as they got older, but the editors of those sections were always apologizing for how cynical they were. Some part of me was beginning to associate that with being a journalist, with all the information-gathering involved.

I took stories I was interested in but knew little about. This brought me to my first big realization working for the paper: turns out I didn’t know much about anything. I had written a pretty hefty manifesto my senior year of high school on inequality in American schools, but my first opinion piece on school vouchers was almost like starting from scratch.

When I became commentary editor, I did even more reading. The more I searched for controversies to comment on, the more I saw people on the internet ostensibly screaming at each other but really just screaming monologues. Meanwhile, Conor Fellin and Kyle Walker covered a student’s procedurally unfair suspension and didn’t receive a great response from administration, and there was little response from other students. The office’s bitterness rose, and I decided apathy was my archnemesis.

So morale was a little low when I became managing editor. What was the point of reporting if no one was going to care about the reports? By the time I became editor-in-chief, national news had also become especially toxic because of the upcoming presidential election. I went with current editor-in-chief Hannah Kloppenburg to write on then-unbelievable-candidate Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa. We tried to give Trump supporters a genuine voice, but it’s hard to know how we did. Students don’t write letters to the editor as much as they did before I got here.

A year ago, managing editor Fraser Kastner’s farewell ranted against apathetic students. It made me feel like it was at least better to be cynical than apathetic. But now I think those feelings are just two sides of the same coin. You read the news, and it’s generally bad. You get cynical. You don’t want to feel that way, because it’s exhausting. You apologize, you burn out. You put down the paper. You get apathetic.

My second realization was that it’s okay to not read the news (sometimes). If you get on Facebook expecting cute cat videos and, unprepared, see a bunch of reports on bombing Syria instead, you’re going to get desensitized and that’s not useful to anyone. The Collegian has news and commentary, but it also has sports and variety and satire because those sections are important for you too. I spent my time in the Collegian office around a majority of bitter young men, but I loved it because they taught me to have a sense of humor about it all. We played music, ate together, looked at memes and definitely watched at least one cat video. I’ll always be grateful to fellow editors for that.

Finally, special thanks are in order. To those of you who read this far and who read The Collegian in general. To J. Christopher Proctor, for making me think people who work together are supposed to get along. And for gesturing grandly towards the office and basically telling me as a freshman that everything the light touched would be mine one day. To Patrick Creedon, for teaching me the ways of commentary and letting me be his apprentice editor.

To Conor Fellin, for putting up with my extensive whining as a section editor despite the fact that I occasionally made fun of his taste in music. To Kyle Walker, for showing me how to be a professional student journalist (™) with proper pdf compilation songs. To Morgan Krueger, for being the most pragmatic editor-in-chief we’ve ever had. And to Fraser Kastner, for being the spice to my sugar.

Thanks to President Clancy, for already having given us multiple interviews and making us feel supported while the president of our country hasn’t. Thanks to our recently hired section editors for looking pretty swell; someday this will all be yours. And thanks to the Papa John’s guy with nice blue eyes who said he didn’t trust the media but cheerily gave me our pizza every Sunday anyway.