I wrote one crappy article about how some high school students felt about the food served in the cafeteria. Fast forward a few years later, I decided I wanted to pursue journalism in college and possibly make a career out of it.
I vaguely remember that journalism class I took when I was a sophomore in high school, but I clearly remember that one article we had to write as the final project. The tense was not correct in certain sentences, I broke many Associated Press style rules and I was lazy and interviewed a few friends. Sue me.
I thought life was going to point me in the direction I needed to go just like everyone else thought. I did not think I would need to understand the difference between active and passive voice and why the Oxford comma was our enemy.
Do not worry, as I have been hit with enough AP Stylebooks and SPJ Code of Ethics informational sheets to know to never again make those mistakes. But despite that article being lost forever due to a flash drive malfunction, I still can visualize it to this day.
Comparing myself now to that past idiotic kid made me realize something: I am unsure of how I got here.
That is fitting considering at the end of my high school career in May 2017, I also was unsure of myself and what career path I would take. I mean, I know what decisions led me to the position I am currently in, but I am unsure why those decisions were made.
Despite having good grades in math and science courses in high school, the thought of going into a STEM field did not seem right to me. I also loved competing in Accounting UIL but did not think that field would be my main career path.
Having always enjoyed writing, whether it be creative writing or the satisfaction of finishing a long English paper, I looked back on my experiences in high school. I did not fully hate that sophomore journalism class, so why not pursue that in college, right?
Being asked what I wanted to do in college was a conflicting moment for 18-year-old me.
“I love to write, and anything that can expand my writing skills in a way to inform people is a career I want to do,” is what I would say to people who asked why I had a sudden interest in journalism despite not being on my school’s yearbook or newspaper staff.
I truly wanted to pursue writing, but I also wanted to avoid becoming an English teacher at all costs, so journalism it was.
This is the mentality I entered South Plains College in the fall of 2017. It was not until I learned I was going to take a news writing class and was going to contribute to the campus’ newspaper, The Plainsman Press, that stress finally started to kick in.
With the cafeteria food story under my belt, I marched into the newsroom and volunteered to cover my first event: the Lubbock Downtown Farmers Market. With the paper being printed bi-weekly, I had plenty of time to write the article, but even a few days felt like I only had 30 minutes to come up with something good.
I definitely started to question my choices. Even to this day, I am a person that enjoys the comfort zone, does not like a lot of attention drawn to himself, hates the unexpected and likes to keep to himself with as little human interaction as possible.
Regardless of these reasons, I decided to choose a major that would require me to face many stressful deadlines, have my name and frumpy headshot be seen by multiple readers, cover breaking news and interview strangers on a daily basis.
Again, it is why certain decisions were made that irks me. It was not until the publication’s adviser, Charlie Ehrenfeld, gave his popular first-day pep talk that my view started to change.
“This newsroom will change you for the better if you let it,” are words that echo through my head whenever I am in a rut in my career path.
These words helped me through the stressful times trying to put a coherent story together, fixing my flawed attempts at headlines, staying up late in the newsroom to lay out the newspaper and much more. These words meant if I roll with the punches and remember what I want out of the experience, I will be a better person in the end.
I will never forget everything Charlie has done for me. I would not know how my life would have turned out if I changed my major. Thank you for the blunt advice and the moral support, Charlie. Lord knows I would not have been able to overcome these challenges without it.
I continued to grow at the Plainsman Press, but it was not long before I had to write a similar farewell to this one and say goodbye to the family that helped that confused 18-year-old. A chapter of my life was complete, and I was accepted into Texas Tech for Fall 2018. The next decision to make was to find another home that would change me for the better.
After hearing a lot of suggestions on what jobs and organizations Tech had to offer, The Daily Toreador was one that stuck out. I will be honest, prior to filling out an application, I heard a lot of whispers about how stressful the job could be and the time commitment it would entail.
I was hesitant but moved forward with the application knowing I would need to go big or go home. I expected the staff writer position on the paper’s news section to be challenging, and my expectations were exceeded.
But a few things similar to my experience at the Plainsman Press happened: I recalled what I wanted out of this experience, and I started another family.
Do not get me wrong, I was more stressed and exhausted than I ever had been at SPC. I was dealing with more deadlines, some of which required faster turnaround than what I was used to, I had to think of multiple story ideas a week and I had to get used to social media. But I was not alone.
Looking back at my news editor, Matthew Setzekorn, is a strange feeling. During my job interview with him, I thought about how I would ever move up in a job like this when I was scared of the tasks I had before me.
Thinking about everything in between that interview and getting the news editor position at the end of my first semester at The DT made me realize there would always be these fears and challenges, but there are ways to thrive.
Watching Matt lead the news section was not always the prettiest thing, especially as it reminded me of what I had lying ahead during my first semester as an editor.
But seeing him work to make the news section the best it could be while also dealing with us pesky staff writers was something I always admired and tried to emulate. It seems luck is rarely on a news editor’s side but thank you Matt for showing me ways to overcome life’s challenges.
Similar to when I started as a staff writer, I fully expected the news editor job to be hard as hell, and my expectations were exceeded once again.
For roughly two years, I had to juggle schoolwork, breaking news coverage, online and print content and staff writer management. For any former or current editor from The DT, one knows this is an understatement of an editor’s daily tasks.
In general, journalists are expected to be knowledgeable in a variety of areas and produce content accurately and quickly. Even in some of our proudest moments, we receive no appreciation for a piece or receive backlash for simply reporting the news. For student journalists, add in a full-time course load, and you got yourself a recipe for disaster.
This does not seem to be an isolated phenomenon. Last spring, months before the pandemic, The Plainsman Press, unfortunately, had to end its print publication due to fewer students entering the major and wanting to contribute to the paper. A lack of motivation to inform the public continues to be journalism’s worst enemy.
Needless to say, there were moments as an editor when I felt unmotivated, confused and bitter. I was having flashbacks of my freshman self who entered journalism as a scared kid who later developed his skills to be confident in what he wrote. Considering the stress I was facing, was that prior triumph all for nothing?
I continued to face these negative experiences for four semesters, even in Spring 2020 when I held both the news and La Vida editor position, which definitely added to the stress.
The COVID-19 pandemic definitely did not make things better. The world threw a lot at journalists in 2020.
Although, I am only harping on the negative experiences I have faced, which in the grand scheme of things, were not as prominent as they seemed in the present moment. Obviously, since I am writing this farewell nearly five semesters after starting as a staff writer at The DT, there was one factor that kept me going through all the stress: the people.
I cannot imagine the social recluse I would be if I did not join The DT. By simply sitting in one of the available seats on the reporter row as a staff writer, I always was greeted with kindness by other staff writers, editors and advisers, who would later encourage me to apply for news editor.
As much as I would love to fill this entire page with this farewell, there are just too many people to thank individually, but I will try my best to compact my appreciation.
To my news section staff writers, I only hope that I and the other editors fostered a similar welcoming environment for you all. I am super proud of the growth and the perseverance I have seen this semester, especially during the pandemic. I cannot wait to see your guys’ names in the news, whether you are covering the news or are being spotlighted in the media for your inevitable achievements.
I also have had the pleasure of working with some great student editors, who will make their mark on the world. For those individuals who have either mentored me or helped make this paper the best it could be—you know who you are—I will be forever grateful for your friendship. We may have been stressed and exhausted, but we were stressed and exhausted together.
I never thought I would have a big network of friends I could rely on. I always considered myself a very introverted person who does not like to be the target of attention. That slowly started to change, as I have been the butt of many inside jokes, been compared to quirky fictional characters from cartoons and other TV shows, was encouraged to go to college parties and received the infamous A-Dizzy nickname and other variations of it.
Whether it be the unity when covering breaking news, the moral support we provide one another or the laughs we have when laying out the paper, the memories I have of working with the ever-changing editorial board will be ones I will cherish for years to come.
I will be honest, we have had our drama, secrets and rough patches here and there, but what family doesn’t?
If it was not for the people of The Daily Toreador newsroom, I would not have understood my potential as a journalist.
I never said every moment was consumed by negativity, as there were multiple opportunities I gained that will continue to shape me as a person. A journalist experiences the lives of the people with whom they interact.
From the sources I have interviewed, such as insightful Tech faculty, staff and Lubbockites, to the media relations professionals that take time out of their busy schedules to help student journalists, there hardly was a day when I did not interact with someone unique.
Without the people of The DT, I never would have covered interesting events or impactful topics, such as a simulated plane crash, aspects of the pandemic, elections, historic changes to the university and more.
The skills I have gained are ones that will definitely help me excel in my pursuit for a master’s degree in mass communication at Tech and any future endeavors.
These experiences and more are why I always will consider these past five semesters as some of the most formative times of my life. I have learned so much more about being a journalist and about myself throughout this journey than I ever expected, and it is all because of the people I have met along the way.
The Daily Toreador, thank you for being the outlet that has turned that 18-year-old cowering behind his cafeteria food story into someone who can adapt to overcome anything. This may be farewell, but I will never forget the home you provided.