If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Pardon the cliché, Reilly, but I just had to start my final story for The Spectrum this way.
Because for the last three years, I haven’t had a got-to job; I’ve had a get-to job.
I get to tell stories of triumph and failure, hope and despair. I get to help others find their voice. I get to put out an impactful newspaper. I get to work with an amazing staff.
My time at this publication hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth it. I may not have been plucked from a lake and delivered to the doorsteps of our windowless office by a stork like Kayla Estrada insists, but I have been here a really long time. And I have seen a whole lot of things go down at 132 Student Union.
I was there when our managing editor at the time, Jacklyn Walters, let out a yelp: “we’re going online,” she screamed, as we learned from the governor that the new coronavirus would be shutting campus down for the foreseeable future.
I was there when protesters surrounded a Young Americans for Freedom speaker event and turned our normally still campus into a political battleground — the likes of which we had never seen.
I was even there when we learned that a Knox Hall bathroom had been vandalized with anti-semitic and racist grafiti. I still remember roaming the halls with our editor-in-chief at the time, Brenton Blanchet, in search of the elusive story. I vividly recall how quickly the governor and the local news picked up on our reporting, and how good of a feeling that was.
And The Spectrum brought me plenty of good feelings. It’s through our reporting that I learned that Tori Franz overcame Crohn’s disease to become an All-MAC diver. And that Nick Metz and Collin Searles hitchhiked across America because they felt like it. And that Spider-Man put on a show for UB students because he wanted to make them smile. And that Shawn Donahue befriended Taylor Swift’s mom because he loves her daughter’s music.
But I wouldn’t have been exposed to any of these stories if it weren’t for a Facebook Messenger conversation I had with Brenton in May 2019.
“Hey Brenton, thanks for reaching out!” I wrote. “I have already enrolled in ENG 394, which I am super excited for. Hannah told me that y’all may be a little thin on the sports desk, so if there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know!”
I helped out a little at first, and then my role expanded. I went from writing two-dozen stories as a staff writer to more than 100 stories as the senior sports editor and later, as the senior features editor. As managing editor, I edited more than 450 articles written by our incredibly talented staff.
I’m so glad I took this leap of faith, because if I didn’t, I would have missed out on working with so many unbelievable people.
Brenton and Jacklyn, I can’t thank you enough for all your guidance and support over the years. You saw something in me from the very beginning and worked tirelessly to bring it out. I am forever indebted to you both for your generosity. Brent, you never cease to amaze me with your work ethic and your kindness. You are a true light. Jacklyn, you are one of the best leaders and most impressive people I have ever met, and I will always be in awe of you.
Jody, thank you for providing loads of constructive criticism. I learned more from our virtual editing sessions than I have in any lecture hall. You have an amazing eye for a good story, and I treasure your subtle kindness and keen feedback.
Matt, thank you for always being a phone call away, whenever I struggle with an ethical dilemma or need someone to vent to. You’re an incredibly impressive human. Sam, thank you for always being willing to help out. Our staff adores you; please keep using your gifts for good.
Anthony and Grant, thank you for embracing everything this newspaper has to offer and for being a considerable source of joy and pride for me. You two inspire me more than you will ever know, and I can’t wait to see you guys thrive in your new roles. Anthony, you’re my greatest achievement at The Spectrum, someone I have had the unique privilege to watch blossom from the very first day. Grant, you’re probably the most talented reporter I’ve ever been around, on top of being a terrific person and a wonderful friend.
Andrew, thank you for being my best friend at UB. Few things have brought me more pride than watching you shine in your new role. Your work ethic is unrivaled; your kindness unmatched. You are such a great person, and I hope to one day be even half the friend you have been to me over the years.
Julie, you are one of the most special people I have ever met. For you to go through everything you go through and still always have a smile tattooed to your face is nothing short of inspiring. Your empathy and thoughtfulness never fails to amaze me. You are a gem and a light, and I hope you never lose your spark. Thank you for being you.
Jenna, thank you for being an epically wholesome person. I absolutely adore you and cherish all our baseball conversations and general tomfoolery. I wish you saw what everyone else sees in you: your incredible kindness and wonderful spirit. You are such a blessing for our entire staff.
Lauryn, Cassi and Savanna — thank you for lighting up the office every day. As an assistant editor, our windowless workplace was an unwelcoming and intimidating sight. But your presence always made me look forward to coming in — even on production day.
Sophie, thank you for being a friend. I am so grateful this newspaper brought us together for late-night study sessions, pasta nights and Alumni runs. You’re among the coolest people I’ve ever met, and I’m so thankful for you.
Speaking of cool people, thank you for being you, Paul. You are the epitome of the phrase “cool, calm and collected.” You have put up with so much of my silliness over the last year and a half and I can’t thank you enough for the gift of your friendship. You’re a gem.
Myah, it’s still unfair that we didn’t get to work together longer than we did. But you are one of my biggest role models, and I think about you so often. Keep being you.
Alex and Ben, thank you for being such wonderful friends, even after you both graduated. I cherish our spirited sports debates and our Rec Room meetups. Alex, I am so glad The Spectrum brought us together and led us to every sporting competition imaginable. Ben, I am so fortunate to learn from someone as kind and as knowledgeable as you. You are both rockstars.
Kayla and Kayla, thank you for being so wonderfully kind and supportive. Kayla Sterner, you are an incredibly strong person — both physically and mentally. I’m in awe of you every day. Kayla Estrada, I have learned a tremendous amount from you in your short time on staff, and I can’t wait to continue to watch you grow your wings.
Jiayi, you are seriously an inspiration. You are an incredibly talented and good-hearted person, and you carry yourself in the most unassuming manner. I have so much respect for you.
Dan, thank you for all the early-morning coffee dates, late-night Tops runs and for even dragging me to the gym once. You have an amazing work ethic and news sense, and I’m so grateful for our friendship.
Hunter, getting to cover the women’s tennis team with you was one of the highlights of my Spectrum career. You’re such a kind person, and I can’t wait to continue to bombard you with mediocre Julius Randle takes. Natalie, in the short time I got to know you, you never failed to amaze me with your upbeat attitude and bubbly personality. You’re wonderful. Alexandra, you are among the funniest humans on this planet. Thanks for keeping me sane and for being such a supportive friend.
Jack, I’m so glad basic documentary brought us together. You’re such a gem and I love all your puns and dad jokes. Alex, you’re a big teddy bear. You’re so kind and vulnerable and wholesome and just such a terrific asset for our staff. Kyle, your storytelling ability is off-the-charts. You have a wonderful gift, and I hope you continue to use it. Kara, you are such a lovely person, and perhaps the best natural writer I have ever been around. Keep doing what you’re doing — as a journalist, but more importantly, as a person.
Moaz, you’re incredibly cool. Thank you for being so patient with me and for sharing your gifts with our staff. You have a way of telling stories through your photos; keep up the terrific work. Sai, your pictures belong in a museum. Everyone on staff loves you. You’re fantastic. Sabrina, you are quietly one of the nicest people I know. Thank you for teaching me so much about what it means to be a good person. You’re a great person.
Ciara, thank you for all the Monday puzzle nights and for giving me an excuse to consume an unhealthy amount of penne alla vodka. Will, thank you for being a tremendous light in my life and one of my closest friends. Orly, thank you for blessing me with your friendship. Ditto to you two, Kayla and Sam. Brendan, thank you for being the best roommate I could have ever asked for. I’m so grateful for you — more than you will ever know. Connor, thank you for all the sports updates and good laughs. You’re going to kill it at Cornell.
Professor Andriatch, thank you for all your guidance and for being such an invaluable resource when I have an ethical dilemma. Professor Lam, thank you for teaching me everything I know about podcasting and for supporting me in all my endeavors. Professor Galarneau, thank you for always pushing me to look deeper and question everything. Our staff reveres you.
Finally, Reilly, thank you for everything. It has been an unbelievable honor getting to work alongside you every day. You have taught me so much about the meaning of friendship. You are my biggest role model, someone who has put up with the worst parts of me and done it with a gracious smile.
You are a tremendously gifted columnist, a remarkable leader and one of my best friends. From the moment we accidentally met in the Greiner Hall hallway, I realized I was in the presence of someone special. You are such a kind, humble and funny soul, and if I one day am even a quarter the person you are, I’ll be happy. You have a staff that absolutely adores you, and are leaving with an incredible legacy.
I’m going to miss all of our little walks, trips to the Commons and conversations about literally everything. Thank you for turning my bad days into good days and for getting me through my darkest moments. I wouldn’t have wanted to do this with anyone else. I love you platonically.
Justin Weiss is the managing editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Justin Weiss is The Spectrum's managing editor. In his free time, he can be found hiking, playing baseball or throwing things at his TV when his sports teams aren't winning. His words have appeared in Elite Sports New York and the Long Island Herald. He can be found on Twitter @Jwmlb1.