My first semester without weekly budget and post-production meetings was a much-needed break.
On Sundays, my only worry is beginning the dreaded 9 to 5, opposed to being scolded for a last-minute story published in the newspaper.
I no longer throw together sloppy pitches with a vague idea and no ideas for visuals on Tuesdays.
My schedule was consumed by my job, master’s classes and fieldwork, not The Temple News.
While it sounds like journalism was a burden, I couldn’t imagine going through my undergraduate years without it.
In high school, I was an overachiever who signed up for every activity available. In college, I was lucky if I came to the second club meeting. But this wasn’t the case with The Temple News.
I signed up to freelance for the Opinion section because I was raised in a conservative, rural town where I wasn’t allowed to express my opinion without controversy, so I thought The Temple News could give me an outlet to speak my mind.
And it did. I finally found my voice; although I was too passive to use it verbally, I could show off my thesaurus-like vocabulary and headstrong personality in my writing. Unlike most freelancers, I wasn’t a journalism major; I was a public health major, so writing for the newspaper was a change of pace from my biostatistics or epidemiology homework.
After freelancing for two years, my editor saw potential in me to be the health beat columnist. It was an honor that he thought I could be trusted to write an article every week, and his faith gave me the confidence boost to take the next step and apply as an Opinion editor.
Running the Opinion section was one of the most time-consuming but worthwhile jobs I’ve had.
Every other Sunday, I found myself in the newsroom scrambling to finish my section in time. Two days later, I would see my completed section and think “Wow, I really did this.”
For every typo I missed, there was a comprehensive column that would catch the attention of a professor or colleague. Several people, including my best friend’s mom, said they read the Opinion section every week because of me.
Now, in my post-Temple News career, I’ve been able to take a step back and reflect on how writing for the newspaper shaped my undergraduate experience and impacts me today.
In addition to learning AP style, like not using an Oxford comma or the preposition “over” when I mean “more than,” I learned the importance of people-first language, putting an individual before their disease or condition. This is a critical concept in public health research, and it guided me in my understanding that we’re not defined by things outside of our control.
Journalistic writing helped me further grasp the nuance of the English language; this is stressed in public relations, a sector I previously had no interest in.
Now I’m building a social media presence for my professional food blog and working with several PR companies. While it isn’t my full-time job, nor is it related to my major, creating content is an escape from monotonous data entry or endless recruitment phone calls.
It reminds me that I crave creativity, whether it’s writing essays, taking photographs or editing videos. Without The Temple News, I have more time to focus on social media management, and I realized that both have several parallels: I’m appealing to a target audience, and I’m trying to get a message across.
Trying to compile my thoughts and reminisce on my time as an Opinion writer has been especially difficult because I haven’t written in so long. It feels like the summer between spring and fall semester just passed and I’m scraping my brain for lessons I learned months ago.
Thinking about all the people I’ve interviewed and the freelancers I hopefully inspired gives me a bittersweet rush of nostalgia. One of my former freelancers texting me at 11:45 p.m. reminding me of the midnight deadline feels weird, ironic and wonderful all at the same time.
I guess you could say I’m retired at age 23. Although I probably won’t pursue a career in journalism any time soon, I’m thankful for this experience, as it helped me become a better writer and a more informed person, two competencies I will need after graduating.
Every time I look at the small, owl-shaped trophy I earned for being on staff, I’ll remember my former editors, freelancers and interviewees I met at The Temple News.