Ziel: Goodbye, Collegian — the shining star of my college experience

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Renee Ziel, Night Editor

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.

Contrary to the journalist I am now, I came into The Collegian a bumbling mess.

The copy desk didn’t have room for me at the time, so I went to opinion when they were in want of writers, and thus began my unforgettable Collegian experience.

It’s alarming to think I had no idea what to expect from this publication when now, working as the night editor and having written for both opinion and arts and culture, I know it like the back of my hand.

Not a lot of people know what a night editor does, and I’m acutely aware of how hard a copy editor works while getting little praise in the journalism field.”

Opinion was a great time, as I worked with many talented and funny people and quickly picked up on how The Collegian ran things, but I was set on copy editing. After over half a year, in August 2019, the radiant and astonishing Night Editor Anna Stewart asked me to come on. Saying yes to her was the greatest decision I’ve made in my entire experience at Colorado State University.

It didn’t take long for me to get really good and realize how much I loved it — not just our desk and the special camaraderie that comes from our work but all the nitpicky things a copy editor needs to see. I knew early on I desperately wanted to be night editor. And in May 2020, I got exactly that.

Not a lot of people know what a night editor does, and I’m acutely aware of how hard a copy editor works while getting little praise in the journalism field. Newspapers are dying, and with them, the copy desks die too. I, however, am passionate about our indispensable role, and I wanted to carry this confidence with me into my leadership here.

I was once a subdued presence — I spoke quietly, trembled when I delivered input and got anxious easily. The copy desk was just as subdued for a while. Then I wanted to be loud, and I wanted to be heard.

I wanted to make sure articles weren’t coming to us late because it set us back, and I wanted the high standards that copy editing requires to succeed. I wanted to make sure people knew how hard the long nights of rigorous fact-checking, AP-Style-memorizing and nitty-gritty-details-fixing were, but I also wanted directors and writers to feel like they could come to me with questions. I wanted to contribute to the community we’ve built here.

I can very proudly say I did that and more.

I’ve edited about 2,200 articles over the last 2 1/2 years on the copy desk, including over 1,300 as night editor at an error rate of about 1%. I’ve seen production nights that went to 2 a.m., and I’ve seen the celebratory nights we got to go home at 9 p.m. I’ve seen a smoothly running newsroom and a not-so-smooth one. I’ve seen management in times past hilariously call upon us for pages, amusing typos in our ads (“Mountian Chruch” is a favorite), dances in our newsroom’s string light-laden “party rhombus” and the everlasting copy desk Double Stuf Oreo debate.

I’ve seen some of my best colleagues go, and now I’m the one leaving.

This marks now over three years of The Rocky Mountain Collegian, and in student media time, that’s basically an eternity. And in my time, that’s a remarkable feat anyone of my age and dedication should revel in.

As a night editor, I’m a lot of things. I lead and train copy editors to be the best they can be and take over one day. I have to know every little in-house, English and AP Style rule while putting out a perfectly factual paper. I work with every desk, a unique position among our directors. And I have to be the pinnacle of unbiased journalism if I’m meant to check every piece that filters through our phenomenal team.

But I’m gonna be biased — The Rocky Mountain Collegian is special. It’s passionately run by students, for students. It’s so full of talented writers, editors, photographers and designers, I wonder how it hasn’t burst. It’s home.

I wish I had more room here to thank every individual person that made it such a home, but they know who they are. Thank you, everyone who believed in me. Thank you, copy desk, for making every long night and headache so worthwhile.

Thank you, Collegian. What a marvelous and fulfilling ride this was.

Renee Ziel was the night editor of The Rocky Mountain Collegian. She can no longer be reached at copy@collegian.com, but you can reach out to her on Twitter @reneeziel.