I remember sitting on that ratty couch in the corner of the newsroom, curled into my Intermediate Chinese textbook, when a boy with a round head and glasses, chewing on Mentos, peered over my shoulder. He slurped on a Big Gulp and gave me his cheeky, lovable smile.
“You’re taking Chinese?”
By the end of that week, everyone on staff was repeating vocabulary words that I taught them. News in here always travels fast. By the end of my first semester as the Arts & Entertainment editor, I had drawn characters with Sharpie all over two staffers’ apartment walls, and given the whole staff a real picture of who I was, who I am. Those characters, by the way, are still there to this day, bold and demanding, until someone new moves in with a fresh can of paint.
But I hope they never do. I hope the memories I made during the last two years stay with me, in that house, in my office, in every sentence we wrote and every person we spoke to.
The first story I ever told for The Temple News was a disaster. I decided to write a review of a food truck for our annual edition of “Lunchies” for an editor I was visibly terrified of. I was a freshman, seeking to stake my claim at a newspaper I had been reading since I was in high school. I went to the food truck and filmed myself eating lunch to put online with my story. I thought it was ingenious as a lowly freshman, something that makes me cringe at the mention of nowadays. The story and video are still posted online, the title of which I will happily not provide.
The part of that story that I don’t regret, however, is the part of me that was unashamed and ballsy enough to take a bite of a drooling crepe on camera and put it onto an award-winning newspaper’s website. I think those were some of the best ideas I saw here; the ones that weren’t obvious and made me think twice about journalism.
Those stories came up pretty frequently during my tenure—we called for the chairman of the Board of Trustees to resign, broke news about the plans for a proposed on-campus football stadium, profiled refugees, talked to politicians and covered student deaths ethically and sensitively.
This week, we published our interactive multimedia project, “100 miles of unpaved road.” This piece, above all, has kept me up at night, staring at the ceiling. I hope it’s gripping, realistic and powerful. I spent hours with survivors, holding their hands and listening to their experiences, sharing their worlds for as long as they would let me. I wanted to do it justice, so this staff listened to hours of stories and information, to make it as cohesive and accessible as possible for students.
And that’s the thing no one tells you about journalism, and certainly no one told me when I came to The Temple News: we’re not just storytellers who put pen to paper. We’re listeners, and we’re the best at it.
Next year, I’ll be in Shanghai, China, still reciting those characters, writing them out on scraps of paper, and telling new stories with them. But the ones I’ll look back on and hold dear to my heart aren’t in the archives of The Temple News, they are in the hours I spent in the newsroom listening to interviews, pitches and this staff’s stories. That was the best-kept secret that no other editor-in-chief could have told me.
I’ll remember things overheard in the newsroom like a playlist in my head, even when I’m out of earshot.
I overheard our photo desk raving about a new photographer’s talent, and my chief copy editor reciting the AP Style Book from memory. I heard the features editors laughing on the floor of the editorial cubicle, the opinion editor at her desk with Beyoncé on. I listened in on the multimedia desk’s witty banter and impressive shorts.
There was the sports guys’ humor I will never understand and the news team late at night, arduously still making calls. I heard my managing editor on the other end of my receiver, telling me his latest bright idea and the best advice I could have asked for. I heard them all at one point or another, loud and clear, in the newsroom that is a little bit more like home now.
I can’t quite imagine a year at Temple without them, echoing in my head and throughout all 20 pages of this smart, thorough newspaper.
But I guess I won’t have to, afterall. So make me proud, gang.
I’ll be reading from a million miles away.
Emily Rolen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Emily_Rolen.