The metamorphosis

Word for word, I still remember my sophomore year Spectrum staffaward. You know, those “paper plate” type awards almost every club, sorority and campus organization gives out to members at end-of-the-year ceremonies. That piece of paper with a short, personalized award that most recipients will look at, either chuckle at or feel sentimental about and then forget about.

I still think about mine two years later.

The Butterfly Award: To the editor that is coming out of his shell and becoming a leader at the paper.

It made me shrug. I didn’t feel like I was coming out of any shell. And I certainly didn’t feel like I was becoming a leader. I assumed whoever was responsible for writing encouraging awards to 20 some-odd editors needed something nice to say about the sophomore assistant sports editor who, sure, had wrote a few good stories, but hadn’t said much at all his entire first semester as an editor.

In fact, I had been quiet my first two years on this campus. Too quiet. Like, too quiet to move a conversation past “Hey” and “What’s up?” quiet. I overthought everything I wanted to say, so I just didn’t say it at all. I kept myself distant, even from the other editors at the paper who were great people looking to be my friend.

My shyness cost me friendships and relationships I never had a chance to make. In some cases, it cost me the friendships and relationships I did have.

So why would I choose journalism – the profession which above all requires you to be good at talking to people? I still don’t know the answer to that. I’m just glad I did.

And I’m not sure if whoever wrote my “Butterfly” award truly saw something in me, or if it was just something nice to say about the shy kid – I’m just glad they did.

I’ve had the responsibility and honor of serving as this paper’s editor in chief this past year – and the pleasure of coming out my “shell” and being a leader for this incredible newspaper that still amazes me even after four years of working here.

We’ve put ourselves out there, open for criticism and ridicule, in effort to do the right thing – sometimes we stumbled, but most times, we made it through the finish line.

We brought to light important issues, like living conditions in the Heights, the classification of sex offenders, drama in the law school and athletic department spending.

We’ve tried to cover each club, department and organization with fairness and balance. We’ve made a lot of allies in doing so. We made some enemies too (Goodbye, UB Athletics. Go Bulls.) Sometimes, they were both. (We know exactly how we feel about each other, SA).

We tried to cover difficult topics, like student art projects and student deaths, with grace and sensitivity to the best of our ability.

All this despite the fact UB has no journalism major and The Spectrum receives no funding from the university. Nothing. Zero. Yet a group of dedicated individuals put a borderline unhealthy amount of hours into 132 Student Union so UB has an award-winning student publication and a place where its students can get experience to land jobs, internships and graduate school acceptance.

(Maybe we should work to change that whole no funding thing, huh, UB?)

The Spectrum gave me what I needed: to be pushed.

I needed something to force my mouth open and have a conversation with people without caring what they thought of me. I needed a star athlete or university official waiting for me to ask a question, to be the one holding the microphone at a press conference, to have a newsroom of hard-working 20-somethings looking for me to tell them what to do.

I needed The Spectrum.

Yeah it’s cliché, but there really is no way to fit in all the different memories I have from The Spectrum inside his last column – this goodbye column as we like to call it. So I’ll give you the abridged version.

There were too many nights leaving 132 Student Union as the sun was beginning to rise. Too many hours furiously transcribing hours of recordings.

Too many ignored text messages from friends looking to hangout – and too many times I pulled out my laptop to edit or post a story when I did hang out with them.

Too many times my parents, whom I live with, went days without seeing me, as I’d come home hours after they’d went to bed, or not come home at all.

And there were way too many sickening feelings that there was no chance my story or that of my peers was going to come together, only to get an amazing sense of relief seeing that same story on the front page of the newspaper the next morning.

Of course when I say “too much,” I don’t really mean it. I loved it. The good and the bad. Every single second of it.

And as many hours of my life that I gave to The Spectrum, it did much more for me. It took an unconfident, shy 18-year-old without a voice to a 22-year-old willing to stamp his words, face and name out there for thousands of people to read.

Yet, it’s not really The Spectrum that did anything for me. The Spectrum is just a 20x10 piece of newsprint. It’s the people that make The Spectrum what it is.

When I look back at The Spectrum 10, 20 years from now (that will probably come sooner than all we seniors think) I won’t think of every single story and front page, I’ll think of the people.

I’ll remember the sheer enthusiasm in Jordan Grossman’s eyes every time a breaking news story happened. I’ll remember Marlee Tuskes’ sassiness and organization. I’ll remember Kainan Guo as the most genuine, thoughtful and hard-working human being I have ever met. Seriously, more people should be like you.

I’m going to remember Owen O’Brien being that older advice-giving brother I never had, and the ridiculous and long nights with people like him, Sara DiNatale, Alyssa McClure, Rachel Kramer and Emma Janicki (specifically that night at Owen’s apartment and at The U).

I’m going to think about Spectrum academic adviser Jody Biehl spending hours outside of her job description helping me perfect my big pieces. I mean it when I say I think you’re the best adviser in the country.

I’m going to think of Spectrum office director Helene Polley being my second mom and always letting me walk into her office, close the door and vent. Thank you. Thank you.

I’ll remember Sam Fernando, the one person at The Spectrum who made it a point every day to try to start a conversation with the assistant sports editor who sat in the corner. And I’m going to remember Sara, the former editor in chief, telling a shy kid just starting to realize his potential that he could be the next EIC of the paper. I’ll remember doing the same for incoming EIC Gabriela Julia as she began to flourish.

There’s countless of other people I could list off – I hope they all know how much I appreciated their time and spirit.

It’s the people that make the difference. The people I was once too scared to talk to and almost never got a chance to know.

I’m just glad I did.

Tom Dinki is the editor in chief and can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @tomdinki.