The Spectrum taught me more than how to be an award-winning journalist
I remember sitting in my first Spectrum class. It was fall 2018, the first day of my second year at UB. A year –– I promised myself –– that I would change my perspective.
And boy was I in for a treat.
Jody started talking about journalism and I was hyped. “This is perfect,” I thought. It was everything I was looking for in a career all lumped into one 300-level class. How lucky was I to be in a class taught by the spunkiest woman around, to be writing for a paper with a woman editor-in-chief? Then the senior editors went to the front of the room to give their spiels.
I looked to the front of the room, and four men looked back at me.
This, I would soon learn, was my first lesson in journalism: Never assume anything.
So I picked the editor with hair that looked most like mine, and set a goal: I would be an assistant editor by the spring, and senior news editor by the next fall.
But, as I have consistently been reminded since, nothing happens how you expect it to, especially in a newsroom.
I was an assistant by the end of October and it wasn’t long before I was paired with a girl I barely knew to co-run the news desk, a girl who showed up late to our first assignment and who helped me misquote an important source in our first byline together.
But I was soon reminded, again, that first impressions are never what they seem.
In my two years at The Spectrum, I’ve learned to question everything. I’ve been yelled at, I’ve been disrespected, I’ve had an angry reader bang on the office walls and scream about my coverage.
And as much as I’d love to make this column my “Miley, what’s good?” moment, I think this one’s more important than that. My time at UB has been less than satisfactory, to say the least. My time at The Spectrum, though, almost made going to this school worth it. And even though it feels like all I’ve done in the last two years is cry and yell, I have a few people to thank, and a laundry list of lessons from it all.
I’ve learned that behind every viewpoint –– and every screaming 40-year-old man’s Facebook comment –– is a person with a story to tell. Not every person will be worth your time, but listening to their perspective always is.
Keeping an extra outfit in your desk never hurts, scheduling time to cry can be healing and coffee simultaneously is and is not an acceptable meal. Sometimes, having fun outside of the office is worth throwing up in the features desk recycling bin the next day; sometimes it’s not.
And I learned that, even though I don’t want kids, some kids will always have a place in my heart.
The first of whom is that stupid b---h who showed up late to our first assignment. Tanveen, I brought my soulmate to UB with me in 2017, so I definitely never expected to meet my real soulmate at The Spectrum. I can’t thank you enough for always matching with me, for co-writing 100-word blurbs even when everyone told us specifically not to do that, and for relentlessly intimidating my boyfriend just for fun. We were the best duo, and best news desk, this paper has ever seen. I’ll never get over the fact that our dads work for the same company –– or the fact that you normalized calling me “Jackie” –– and there is no one else I would rather win an award with than you.
To my other soulmate: Zach I can’t thank you enough for your patience, for understanding when I had to stay in the office until 2 a.m. and for giving me your swipe so I could still come home to you afterwards. You have seen me at my lowest, and encouraged me relentlessly. Remember when we saw that accident at midnight, and I was drunk and wanted to report on it? You steered me away, and for that I owe you my deepest thanks, and also my reputation. I love you endlessly, thank you for not judging me any of the times I cried about hating UB.
Brent, thank you for always putting the paper first. Thank you for helping us learn important lessons, sometimes the hard way, and for reminding me that my opinions aren’t the only ones that deserve to be published. You’ve taught me that sports are important, sometimes, and you don’t always have to yell at people for them to respect you. (And a big shoutout for letting me paint my office pink.)
If someone told me four years ago that I’d spend my last semester of college deciphering whether an Italian woman was talking about meatballs, Meatloaf, or Billie Eilish, I probably would have asked who Billie Eilish was. But, Helene, we did just that. No one has ever called me “baby” or made me laugh as often as you. From our daily trash-talking sessions to the days you made me breakfast, there was never a dull moment and I will never forget the impact you’ve had on me. I love you with my whole heart, even though you insist I’ll have 12 children and I know you still haven’t read my profile.
Lauryn, you are the best assistant, fact checker and girls-room roommate anyone could ask for. You’ve anticipated my needs, and we always seem to be on the same wavelength –– two things that very few people in this world can achieve. Thank you for bringing me my laptop charger and always offering Hi-Chew right when I needed it. I don’t know what I, or The Spectrum, would have done without you this year.
Sam, you have simultaneously been my mom, roommate and parent to the son my boyfriend wishes he could have. The first time we spoke you made sure no one in our male-dominated office “was creepy to me,” and since that interaction I knew you’d have my back. Thank you for always being my hype man, and for always offering to color my hair or give me bangs in times of distress. Your chaotic energy figuratively gives me life, and your cooking expertise has literally kept me from dying. I’m glad to call you my friend, even though you like Tim Hortons.
I could never question my judgements, or know how to write a headline or letter of recommendation without Ben. I am constantly amazed by your dedication to journalism, and I’m glad you never left the girls’ room (despite my persistent efforts to kick you out). You may not be the grandfather of journalism, but you’re definitely the grandfather of the newsroom.
And Jody, you inspire me every day to pursue the truth. In a university that seems blind to the power of journalism, your passion and dedication shine through. Thank you for believing in us and fighting for us, and I promise to always keep turning over rocks.
Alexandra and Reilly, I’m so glad to be passing the baton to you. I hope you always seek the truth and fight for your staff. Remember that everyone’s perspective is important, and keep Paul for as long as you can –– he’s an angel.
For everyone staying, and everyone leaving, you have all taught me invaluable lessons about journalism and life that I will always hold dear. I hope you all know how much you have shaped who I am today, and I can’t wait to see you all prosper in life.
I’m proud to say that The Spectrum I’m leaving behind is nothing like The Spectrum I came to two years ago, but I’d be lying if I said I was ready for anything this organization threw my way, and I’d be lying if I said I was ready to leave.
While this semester didn’t end the way I expected, and I never really said goodbye, I think it’s better that way.
The Spectrum I know will never exist again, but that’s kind of the point. Next semester will bring new editors, new challenges and new, well, news to pursue. To say goodbye to you all would be a disservice to those who came before me and those who haven’t yet arrived.
paper news organization was never mine, or theirs, or anyone else’s. It’s for all of us, so we can learn to question our worldview. It’s for our readers to be informed about their campus. And it’s so UB knows that no matter what nonsense it tries to get away with, we’ll be there to call them out on it.