Waldman: Good riddance, I’ll miss you

Elena Waldman

Editor’s Note: Traditionally, graduating seniors working at The Collegian are given the chance to write a farewell note at the end of their tenure at CSU.

Saying goodbye to your college workplace is not the same as saying goodbye to your home. As someone who’s done the latter, I can say this with certainty. Forcing myself to keep a detailed note of my experiences has left me slightly immune to nostalgia, as I can no longer make grand general statements about how much I’ve grown, but it has allowed me to take a pragmatic approach to my personal reflection. So here goes: 

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I can basically map my different personalities in college by the journalists I’ve followed. Freshman year, I obsessed over the liberal feminist rants brought forth by Jezebel, introducing me to the theories of contemporary feminist authority figures like Laura Mulvey and Rebecca Solnit, which I studied the following academic year.

Amber A’Lee Frost marked my junior year — her personal, confessional approach to class analysis paved the way for my most pivotal transformation, in which I abandoned my identification with professional liberal feminism in service of a more egalitarian, inclusive feminism.

And then there was Liz Franczak, whose borderline neurotic skepticism about the function of powerful institutions helped refine my own observational skills — during this time, my final year of school, I became keenly aware of where journalism succeeds and, conversely, where it fails.

What I have found throughout this transformation (that will surely not end here) is that all of these people serve a similar role within this profession, which is to call the status quo (or more precisely, the institutions in power that maintain the status quo) into question.

In my experience, speaking truth to power is the most important role of journalism, and it’s also what initially drew me to it. My only regret is that I hadn’t done more of it at The Collegian, as this place is a breeding ground for finding your interests and excelling at them.

Admittedly, I had my sights set on cultural commentary rather than reporting, which led me to the arts and culture desk — this decision turned out to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, I found that entertainment and popular culture are good starting points for people who want to unpack heavier issues without the constraints of proximity. In opinion-based writing, you can talk endlessly about the subtle sexism of the latest horror flick or the lack of intersectionality in Greek life without much concern for finding where major issues exist.

Journalism is a means to an end. The means is reporting the objective truth, and the end is improving the community by keeping its members informed.”

On the other hand, I wish I’d recognized that proximity isn’t a constraint at all. The issues brought to the surface by the most prominent publications only ever seem to exist in Washington or Hollywood, but this is only where they culminate; in other words, #MeToo and Donald Trump hysteria are merely the tip of the iceberg.

These issues exist here in our community, and there are ways to address them, and they are just as important, if not more important, than the ones that are talked about in mainstream news cycles. The educational environment is, after all, the very place where these issues manifest (which is to say that sexism, racism, classism and so on are learned behaviors). 

It’s too late for me to do this kind of work at The Collegian, and while I’m disappointed by this realization, I’ve accepted it, and I will move forward. But, assuming you are a student at CSU interested in journalism, it isn’t too late for you.

Here’s a quick reminder: Journalism is a means to an end. The means is reporting the objective truth, and the end is improving the community by keeping its members informed. If any of this appeals to you, I strongly suggest you join the team. 

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Trust me — it isn’t as daunting as I’ve just made it sound. Ultimately, this is a learning experience to prepare you for the professional world of journalism. For all the dedication and work you put in, your confidence will increase twofold.

You will have a clear record of your proudest achievements, which you will be able to look back on and see how far you’ve come. You will come to understand that failure is a fact of life that even the most talented, ambitious people are not immune to. You will make lifelong friendships and connections that will follow you into your professional life. 

If you’re like me and you’re skeptical about the “workplace as a family” attitude that seems to pervade every American workplace these days, you may be averse to the values held at The Collegian. But if you can let yourself drop the cynical act for a day, you will find that many of these connections are not contrived.

people pose for photo on oval
Assistant Editor Ty Davis, Director Elena Waldman and Editor Lauryn Bolz for the arts and culture desk pose for a photo Oct. 21, 2019. (Matt Tackett | The Collegian)

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Nothing breeds stronger friendships than working every night in a confined basement room with no glimpse into the outside world but an ironic poster of a window taped on the wall (a friendly reminder that we never know exactly what time it is — it could be 4 p.m. or midnight, and it’s all the same when you can’t leave until an entire newspaper is made). 

This was true when, at the start of my junior year, I sat with a girl who would soon become my best friend and co-editor (and soon to be editor-in-chief), talking about the true meaning of tunnels until the lights were shut off by the night janitor. It was true on the nights when my coworkers and I locked ourselves in the conference room, away from the copy editors diligently marking up articles, doubled over in laughter while watching poorly executed TikToks. And it’s true now, as I write my last goodbye, remembering how chaos brought us all closer together (OK, maybe I’m not entirely immune to nostalgia). 

But enough about my sentimental moments.

Perhaps you are not a student interested in joining student media, and you only look to The Collegian for campus updates. Here’s a note to our audience: Be glad that your student newspaper is not merely a gossip website — God knows we need more of it (news, not gossip). Appreciate the work that goes into this paper.

But most importantly, if there is a message to be gleaned from this entire rant, hold it accountable. Even the most experienced journalists can fail at upholding the principles of this profession, and you should understand that this is not a feature but a bug of student-run media.

It’s OK to express criticism, but try to also be a part of the solution — as Martha Beck famously said, “Any fool can burn down a barn. Building one is something else again.” So it goes. 

Elena Waldman was the arts and culture director of The Rocky Mountain Collegian. She can no longer be reached at entertainment@collegian.com, but you can reach out to her on Twitter @WaldmanElena