Saturday, April 13, 2013

My Last Days as Editor: I'm Done

I've had my last production day. I've had my last day at the office. Tonight, I'll attend my last Reflector banquet. And then, in several weeks, I'll graduate and leave Mississippi State. And several months later, I'll leave Mississippi for the foreseeable future.

I will say this: I believe the 2012-2013's staff put out a very good last edition together. And I'm sure the staff will produce three final issues before we wrap up the school year. And it's weird to think I won't be in that newsroom spending time with them, editing with a stolen pen, and complaining about a lack of graphic elements on a page.

And, although our friendships won't end with a goodbye to the newspaper or a goodbye as we move away, I'll miss seeing the staff every day. Because they are some of my very best friends. They're some of the kindest, most intelligent, empathetic, and generally cool people I've ever met. And they're all pretty talented and hard working too.

The main reason I don't want to grow up: this year.
I have every confidence the new editorial board will be great. And maybe they won't mind if I come back to visit on occasion. But it's not my paper anymore. And all I have left now are the memories (and all of the copies of the newspaper I have saved over the years).

Moving on is hard, but life requires you to move forward. It requires you to be brave and hardworking and strong. I never imagined I would be the editor in chief of my university newspaper. I never thought I would cover half the stories I did. I never thought I would find the family I did when I joined the newspaper staff. But I did.

So thank you to the 2012-2013 editorial board, thank you to the entire staff, thank you to all of the former editors who have supported me — even if you only knew me because I was in a position you held five years before.

Especially thank you to Kyle Wrather, the 2010 editor in chief. He has always been there to when I've needed advice. He has helped me by providing story, design, and photo ideas. When I served as entertainment editor under him, he made me better. And he made me want to make others better.

Thank you to Aubra Whitten, the 2009-2010 managing editor. When I was a freshman, I wanted to grow up to be just like her. She and Kyle both supported the staff through a hard time, and I still remember how she handled the situation. She was the first person to really believe in me as a journalist, and I'll always remember and appreciate that.

April Windham, the 2010-2011 editor in chief, encouraged me to apply for her job. She believed in me and supported my ideas. She also is one of my best friends, and she has listened to me not only rant or freak out about the occasional newspaper problem but has listened to me no matter what the subject. 

Bob Carskadon may have left his position as sports editor in 2011, but we still remember him. Bob did something more important than write great stories (although he did that too) — he educated young writers and inspired them. Two of my editors started writing for him. When I point to sports stories we should aspire to be like, I point to Bob's blog.

And I would like to thank Mary Chase Breedlove, Dr. Carskadon, Dr. McCarley, and Stacey Mann. I was afraid to apply to write for The Reflector, but they encouraged me at various points throughout my first semester. 

I would also like to thank the past and present publication boards. Whit Waide, who served as the chair my first year as editor, was very passionate about the newspaper and Mississippi State. He encouraged me, and I appreciated his advice. Dr. Strout, our current chair, has been a great asset and also teaches a great law class. And Scott Boyd, Harriet Laird, the Student Association members, representatives from The Reveille, and our other members have been helpful and encouraging.

Maridith Geuder, who served as head of university relations until this fall, was a constant source of help to me. She handled crisis situations with aplomb and always had time for me — even when I was just visiting.

The Student Association members whom I've worked with, most notably Shelby Balius, Rhett Hobart, Thomas Sellers, and Morgan McDowell, have been helpful to the newspaper in our collective effort to serve the students.

I would also like to thank Dr. Anderson, Dr. Marsh, Dr. Creevy, Dr. Claggett, and Dr. Snyder — without your English and humanities class, I would have never gotten into grad school and because of them, I have learned to think more critically. English has made me a better journalist.

And to the entire English and Communication Departments: Thank you. And to the Shackouls Honors College: Thank you for giving me so many good writers.

Thank you to Mississippi State's faculty, administration, and staff.  And thank you to the MSU and Starkville police departments. I appreciate your service and your willingness to work with The Reflector.

And thank you to my friends and family who either encouraged me or helped me. You're the best.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me and The Reflector this year and in previous years. You made the newspaper worth reading.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Last Days as Editor: I'm Sitting At My Desk ...

I'm almost out of time.

That's not to say that my life will end at 22, as I walk out the door of The Reflector office on Friday after I turn in my keys. Or after I give my speech (that I still haven't written yet) at the banquet Saturday.

But, when I first took over editor in chief in 2011, I felt like I had so much time to do so many things and conquer the journalism world. And I've accomplished a lot of goals and faced down more lawsuit threats than any one person should. 

I covered the first on campus shooting in Mississippi State's history. I followed the story of a kidnapping hoax on my 21st birthday. I wrote about Greek stereotypes and student apathy toward the Student Association. I wrote a feature article on the beloved Starkville business, Strangebrew, and had great fun doing it. I even sat in the press box at Davis Wade. And those are only a few of my memories writing for The Reflector.

 Last year, I helped defend our right and decision to publish a sex column. (I cannot tell you how many tweets/emails/horrified phone calls I got from this.) I also discovered that some people will be more offended by a typo in the sports section than said sex column. 

I debated ethical concerns over articles using anonymous sources with our adviser and staff members. 

I survived planning one banquet last year, and hopefully I'll survive planning this one as well.

Somehow, as a freshman, I was hired to be entertainment editor. I wrote and planned stories and learned how much I hated reading fashion columns without legitimate sources. And I got to write a sports story (technically, it was a face-off about what was more important: the actual Super Bowl game or the half-time show and commercials). But, eventually, I wrote legitimate sports stories.

I even learned how to understand a football game. 

I've traveled to Louisville, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Martin, Tenn. 

And admist all of the work and stress and fun, I've made friends. Some of my best friends have come from the four staffs on which I've served, especially the 2012-2013 editorial board. We've made memories together, and they've supported me throughout good times and bad. 

But now, I only have three normal work days left with them. And soon, we'll be saying goodbye and life will change. I'm happy it happened, it's time to move on, and the end of the newspaper is not the end of my friendships. And, these people are some of the most important people in my life.

They've taught me how to be a better person, how to be a better teacher, how to be a better writer, how to be a better editor, and so much more. 

I'm finishing my last new article now. (At least, the last one I'm obligated to write.) And I'm sitting at my desk on last Wednesday. And tonight I'll run my last meeting.

But just as it's ending for me, it's beginning for so many new editors and writers. Someone else will come in and experience the joy I have had and will write stories worth telling about. Because The Reflector is a special place full of opportunity and wonder where anyone with potential can develop. And it'll be better than when I left it. And I'll be proud to have been part of something so wonderful. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

My Last Days as Editor: Part Two

For the past three years, I've experienced three official Reflector staff transitions. As part of training for the next year, the new editor-in-chief hires his or her new staff at the end of March, and the current staff trains its successors for a few papers. Traditionally, the staff for the next year takes over the last three or four papers of the spring semester.

On these occasions about twenty people cram into our small office as staffs attempt to pass on knowledge, ask the right questions, and feverishly work to master InDesign and editing before the members of the old staff leave forever.

And, at times when tensions run high and it appears as if the next issue of the newspaper may not happen, I sometimes think I understand what Jean-Paul Sartre meant when he said hell is other people. Then, about five minutes later, the server returns or rainbow wheel of death stops spinning and we go back to having fun.

I've trained other people to do my previous jobs before as a section editor, but I knew I was always returning. If I forgot to tell the news desk about when Student Association Senate meetings were, it wasn't a big deal because I was there. If someone had an ethics question about anonymous sourcing, I could share my knowledge. And if sports writers tried to use worst cliche in the book (heartbreaking), I could mark it out with red ink. 

But this time, I only have four issues left to teach the new editors (and maybe the old editors) all they need to know to make this transition as easy as possible for them. The two transition production days have past; I have two more. Two more chances to make sure I did all I could for The Reflector.

I have learned more from being an editor than I would have thought possible. Practicalities from "If someone threatens legal action against you, stop the conversation" to life lessons about leadership and time management. Most importantly, however, I've learned that writing popular articles, winning awards, and having dynamic photos mean nothing if you've failed to educate those helping you produce the content.

Inherently, The Reflector acts as an educational tool for young journalists/photographers/editors (and, although not many people remember, advertising representatives). We hold ourselves to the same standards an ethical, professional newspaper would. When breaking news happens, we're expected to be there. When important events effect the university and Starkville communities, we need to cover them. And when the Student Association's senate meets, we should be the first students to attend and write a story. We're the watchdogs of our community, we're the information source (and the in class distraction for those who love the crossword puzzle).

As the leader of this newspaper, I've been given a great opportunity to gain experiences I never thought I would have. But, next Thursday night, I'll finish my final production day and walk out of my office's doors after sending one last paper. And The Reflector won't be under my control anymore, and I'll have to let go and hope I taught someone something worth knowing.

Here's the lesson all leaders in student journalism should learn: News changes rapidly. Your bylines will fade away, no matter how cool your stories are. (And if seeing your name in the paper is why you're doing this, you should get out now.) But if the education you give to others, if it's good, won't go away. Write something that matters and do it for the pure love of the greater good through the distribution of information. But, more importantly, encourage your staff to write something that matters and give them the tools to do it.

And I know this because I had great senior editors my freshman year who helped shape me into a better writer, editor, and journalist (yes, those are all different things). So thank you to the 2010 Reflector staff. You taught me to be better and do better and inspired me to try the hardest I can to make things better. And I hope I succeeded. The former editors of The Reflector are not only my friends but my heroes. They've inspired me to achieve excellence in all I do.

And I hope I've made them proud, and I hope I've done even a sixth as good of a job as they did. And I hope the editors that come after me take everything I did wrong (and there's plenty of that) and learn from it and improve the newspaper far beyond what we can currently imagine. Because what we do — informing people, telling the truth, giving a voice to the voiceless — is something worth believing in and sacrificing for. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

My Last Days as Editor of The Reflector: Part One

I've spent the past four years in a college newsroom. I've spent the last two serving as editor-in-chief of The Reflector. From this summer onward, I keep having the best time of my life — you know, that mythical experience promised to you as you enter college.

For the past few years, I've always known what I was going to do the next year. I've always had a plan, and that plan hinged on my ideas and goals for The Reflector. I've been happy being a part of the editorial board, and I've learned. And maybe I've taught someone something worth knowing.

Last week, Kaitlyn Byrne was chosen as my successor as editor-in-chief. Yesterday, she announced her new staff. I'm so proud of her and my staff members who have gained new positions. Congratulations to all of them, and they will do a fantastic job next year.

Yesterday, many staff members attended the Better Newspaper Contest Awards Ceremony at the O.C. McDavid Conference.  We learned a lot, had fun taking one last trip together, and picked up an insane amount of awards. 

The two awards I'm most personally proud of receiving: First place in General Excellence (we're all winners) and first place in spot news coverage for our work on the on-campus shooting last March.
Ms. McDavid, Julia, Farrah, Zack, Mary Chase, John, Emma, Me, Eric, and Kaitlin.
See? The plaque is reflecting the light ... get it?

I was so excited. Seriously.

Earlier this year, I missed SEJC because of a scheduling conflict. But, thankfully, I was able to attend one last trip with my friends. Awards aren't important. They are not the reason we write, take photographs, edit, or design. We do it because we want to serve our community. But awards do reflect that we are doing jobs well, so on occasion, it's nice to receive validation.

Tuesday was our last paper before the transition period between new and old staffs. On Sunday (yes, we work on Easter — I've actually worked on Easter for the past four years), we will welcome next year's editorial board members to the office officially. And, hopefully, I can give them a couple of lectures on the importance of ethics, Dickens, accurate reporting, professionalism, Dickens, editing, design, teaching, and Dickens before I leave.

I know I will miss the newspaper next year. But, for the moment, it's time to celebrate our time together and work to pass on four years of editing knowledge.

Again, I'm so proud of everyone on staff (editors, writers, photographers, advertising reps) this year. You deserve all of the praise. I could not have produced a single edition without you.

Scotland: Or, How I Found the Tardis

The bus ride was one of the worst experiences of my life. The less said about said bus ride, the better. Because we didn't book a hostel before leaving for Edinburgh, Josh and I went on a search for wi-fi in order to do so. So with little to no sleep, we pulled our bags across the (very hilly) city.

Someone wanted to stop at McDonald's. It wasn't me. But the point is, we eventually found a hostel, took a nap, and start having adventures.

I have tried to find the words to describe Scotland because it was the best trip of my life. Least importantly, I received a much needed break from work and school after three years of non-stop writing and research. But I also met my best friend on this trip. And I got to prank so many people with random phone calls that started a conversation with, "Hey, by the way, I ran away with a boy to Scotland. I'll see you in a few weeks."

This is a Hairy Coo. It's the only cow I've ever loved. I made Josh take a photo of me with it.
I saw the Isle of Skye. I claim that I could have potentially seen the Loch Ness Monster. And I found the sense of purpose I needed to decide that I did want to apply to grad school to study Victorian Literature. Oh, and I found a cow I actually liked.

I also saw blue police boxes across Edinburgh, so you know that The Doctor is having adventures.

Being away from home made me value it even more when I returned. And I know one day I'll return and make some new adventures.

After Josh and I spent almost a week in Scotland, we returned to London because someone washed his passport. (Hint: It wasn't me.) And I got to see "Wicked" again. And visit the Tower of London and St. Paul's Cathedral.

I'm thankful for being able to study abroad and travel, and the Mississippi State Study Abroad Office, the Honors College, and my family are responsible for a why I could go. I appreciate the opportunity I was given, and I hope others who go to Oxford after me will have similar experiences.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Magdalen: Or, The End of All Things

Magdalen College
Instead of a final day of class on Friday (several of us are flying out of London then), Dr. Snyder scheduled a visit to Magdalen College on Thursday. No offense to Christ Church, but I truly wish I could have been a member of Magdalen just so I would have had an excuse to visit every day.

We walked around the grounds while Dr. Snyder told us about the history of the college. Highlights of the grounds include a deer park, the Fellows' Garden, and the chapel.
Alex and Casey. I think Alex was way more excited
about visiting Oscar Wilde's college than I could
ever hope to be.

While walking through the forest, Spencer found his true calling (see the photo below). No wonder he always insists upon being comfortable ... he's truly royalty. Dr. Snyder took this opportunity to draw our attention back to "Lord of the Rings" by observing the wooden seats remind him of the Council of Elrond. I have a theory that Dr. Snyder can relate anything back to Tolkien if he tries hard enough.
Spencer, Lord of the Woodland Realm

After walking for quite a bit, we made it to the Fellows' Garden, where we relaxed and took pictures before ending our tour.

Taylor was the tallest person I've ever known in real life.

The Grove (the deer park)

After the tour was over, Casey, Melissa, and I went to Granola to grab an afternoon snack. In a way, it was circular. I began my trip with the two of them, having crazy adventures at the airport. And then we began the end. Almost as soon as we reached the flat, we said goodbye to Maddy. And with promises of making Bueno bar ice cream together in the fall, she was gone.

I took Josh to dinner. The less said about that, the better.

Friday, we completed our book analysis papers for Dr. Snyder and prepared our flat for departure. Because I wasn't leaving until (well, at this point I had no idea when I was leaving), I put off packing as much as possible. Khanh and I went to Christ Church to return our key fobs (which I never used) and to say goodbye.

The Christ Church Library ... I loved it there.
As for the whole Scotland trip thing, Josh and I had yet to make any plans because we had been busy finishing our various assignments. After finishing my paper, Josh threw a book on manners at me that was in Bailey's flat and told me it was something I could read up on. (He thought it was a guide book. I was still kind of insulted, especially since Bailey has called me a shrew since the first trip to London.)

Khanh left very early Saturday in order to catch her flight on time. We said goodbye, and Ben walked her to the bus station.

At a decent time today, Josh and I met at Blackwell's to plan our trip (he was late, surprise).

Mini-rant: Penguin Books are just awful. If you're going to sell a book, the least you should do is learn how to spell the names of the main characters on the back. For example, in Charles Dickens's classic novel "Little Dorrit" (read it), Mr. Pancks is one of the most endearing characters. It's not spelled, Panks, Penguin. And you got it right on the inside so ... I don't see what the problem is.

At any rate, we realized we could catch a night bus to Scotland for a decent price (sixty pounds fare for each of us versus one hundred twenty six a person for train). So we went to the train station and bought our tickets for the Edinburgh that leaves later tonight.

After packing up my stuff and finishing things up at the flat, I recruited Bailey and Cameron to help me transport my luggage to Josh's house, where the four of us were meeting so that we could go to the pub one last time. We went to the Rickety Press, ate dinner, returned to the flat, and Bailey revealed he had written me a song. Which he showed to everyone at dinner and then sang to me before it was time to call a taxi. It's main theme? What Hannah Wants, Hannah Gets. 


 So soon, we're off to catch a bus to Scotland, ready for a new adventure. 

I just know one thing: This is going to be a long trip if Josh doesn't cut the crap.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Oxford: Or, How It Came to Be That I Would Run Away to Scotland

Bailey was upset.
Everyone compared his mustache to Hitler.
This weekend, quite a few people gathered in the flat to watch "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King." Because I had to lead discussion on "The Return of the King," it was more than just for fun. I also decided I wanted to write on the films, instead of the books.

We also had white chocolate blueberry toast one last time.

I am the Lorax, Or the walrus.
At this point, my father presented me with an offer: He would move my ticket so I could go to Scotland like I wanted to in the first place.

On Sunday, we had a Dapper Party because when my roommates went to Poundland (think Dollar General), they found mustaches. And decided we would wear them and have dessert together. Kind of as one last party before we all began to prepare to leave. So I made chocolate-covered strawberries.

Somehow, a conversation between Taylor and Maddy led to us deciding to make the event black tie. With the apartment decked out in English and UK flags and our mustaches on, we began to celebrate our time in Oxford. We had quite a bit of fun ... even if some of us ditched the mustaches early. And even if some of us (I know it was your idea, Taylor. Thanks everyone else who went along with it, it was awesomely awkward) felt the need to play jokes on other people.

Taylor, once again creeping in every picture possible.
Melissa and Taylor know how to party.
The next day, I gave my presentation, and I think it went well. I didn't get booed or anything, so I'm taking that as a win. Somehow, Josh and I ended up exploring a different part of town (one I don't really know how to get to ... I use him as my watch and GPS; you may have figured that out by now). We ate dinner at a cheap pub, and I got southern fried chicken out of curiosity of what it would look like. Somehow, I was convinced again to watch another German film. This one was called "The Blue Angel" and was just as awful as the last one. 

This was also notable because I revealed that I know film criticism. Specifically, Mulvey's essay on the gaze. I later got Josh to admit that my knowledge impressed him. No matter what he tells you. He said it.

On Tuesday and today, I had my final tutorials with Dr. Ballam. They both went well, and I received two first classes on my final essays. (Not to brag, but I was excited about that.) That was a big relief, especially because I still have two papers to complete for Dr. Snyder before I finish with the Tolkien class.

I think I killed our final moment of the Tolkien class. Somehow, when we were discussing whether Tolkien was the author of the century or not (I argued he was), a door opened to quote Oscar Wilde. Dr. Snyder's reaction?

Dr. Snyder: Are we really ending our Tolkien class with Oscar Wilde.
Me: Well, it looks like it.

Oscar Wilde. What a dandy. But he is Victorian...

So we did. Well, tomorrow we have the tour of Magdalen College (which is associated with both C.S. Lewis and Wilde), so it's not like I was totally off base.

In the midst of finishing up with my classes, I was busy getting my ticket changed to later in July so I could travel to Scotland. After some unnecessary drama with the airline, it all worked out. And, well, I learned a valuable life lesson.

For the record, Josh was planning to go to Scotland already. Seeing as I hadn't annoyed him on any of our previous trips (minus asking him what time it is or quoting Wilde ... that's another story), I decided to ask if I could go with him. And by "ask" I mean, I told him (semi-jokingly) I was following him to Scotland. And he said ok. So I took that as resounding excitement for the possibility of my presence. His indifference can't fool me.

As for the valuable life lesson: Don't call your mother and say, "Mom, I'm running away with a boy to Scotland. See you in a few weeks. Bye." This ends in a lot of freak outs, conversations about safety, and an interrogation of said boy's life story.

That being said, I didn't really learn anything because I kept doing it to everyone I talked to. Including people on the trip who didn't know we were going together. But seeing as Josh's family lore claims there is a mythical McPhail Manor somewhere, it's not like I was exaggerating when I told everyone a Scottish Laird told me he had an ancestral manor and promised me adventure.

Right. I'm sure my maturity inspires all of you.