I think reporters are all secretly adrenaline junkies. There’s a sense among student and professional journalists alike that you haven’t really earned your spurs until you’ve dealt with someone who doesn’t like you, doesn’t like your publication and would be perfectly happy if all these uppity folks with questions and notepads would kindly congregate elsewhere.
So I have fond memories of my first hostile encounter while working the Collegian beat. Then student writer Conor Fellin and I were called into the office of a certain university vice president after we’d asked to speak to Sodexo employees in person without a university minder present. (What? We were young and naive in those days.)
When we arrived, we were brusquely informed that this was not an interview and I could put my laptop away, thank you very much.
He wasn’t pleased with us. Indeed, he was quite unhappy with the Collegian in general and had a manila file full of past Collegian stories that had irked him. This file, it seemed, stretched back years before I’d even contemplated coming to TU.
Anyways, in that meeting, this VP said something that, despite his best efforts, approached wisdom. Well, stumbled backwards and made brief contact with wisdom on its way to that giant book of watercooler proverbs in the sky.
Once he was through chastising us for one article or another, Conor politely let him know that his complaints would be welcome in the form of a letter to the editor. This suggestion received a firm rejection.
Turning the old adage on its head, he said, “I’m not going to do that; I don’t buy ink by the barrel.”
At the time, I thought this was mildly clever. The implication seemed to be that anyone with access to a printing press and an audience was bound to be a mischievous, jaundiced shark of a gossip hound, and that the only way to deal with such people was to buy ink by the barrel yourself.
Later on, I realized it was more than that. Whether said seriously or in jest, this was a repudiation even of the possibility that reporters could operate with clear eyes.
And it was in a rebellion against this notion that I found my most valuable possession: the belief that those who buy ink by the barrel, people like the students at the Collegian, can be better than this man thought; the conviction that we are journalists; the determination to make TU a better place by distributing information, even when some people don’t want us to.
I hope that this year has been one in which the Collegian has again earned the trust of its readers, so that Collegian writers and editors to come can continue to exercise that determination.
Before I sign off, some thanks are in order. First and above all, I would like to thank Mona Chamberlin, of University Relations, who always did her best to give us information when she could. I believe that Ms. Chamberlin was serious about helping the Collegian do the best work possible. She could have brushed us off. She didn’t—and for that I am grateful.
Second, I would like to thank the Office of the Provost in general and Patt Joyce in particular for their role in managing the Collegian’s budget. Though there have been some tense moments in our relationship, I don’t believe that anyone ever contemplated the nuclear option, and I’m grateful for that, too.
Third, Dan Bewley and Mark Brewin—these guys were behind us in every way that matters. I have never asked one of them for help and gotten “No” or “I’m too busy” for an answer.
Fourth, there are many people who have privately expressed their support for the Collegian, either to me or to other members of the staff. If you’re one of those people, thank you.
Fifth, thanks to the Collegian editors of yore. We still think about you.
And regardless of who you are, reader, thanks to you, too.
I ran the numbers, and it turns out I’ve helped put together 73 issues of the Collegian. That makes 73 production days, 12 or more hours each. So as a (very) low ball estimate, I’ve spent 876 hours just editing the paper. That doesn’t count writing stories, conducting interviews, taking photographs or planning conference trips.
That’s probably more time than I’ve spent with my biological family in the last few years—so I guess it’s a good thing that everyone at the Collegian made such good brothers and sisters in crime.
May all of you be blessed with a surfeit of ink.