Editor’s Note: “-30-” has traditionally been used throughout journalism to indicate the end of a story. Each semester, The University Star encourages its graduating seniors to write a Senior 30 — a farewell piece to readers — indicating the conclusion of a journalist’s time as an active member of our organization.
I spent the last three-and-a-half years reading these “Senior 30” pieces from people who I respected, admired and learned a great deal from. So, you might understand why I find it somewhat peculiar that my time in this organization is now coming to an end — why it is odd to me that younger staff members now look to me as the old, wise editor on his way out.
When I interviewed for The University Star in January 2018, I was a kid with a narrow worldview. The terrible practice column I pitched to then-Opinion Editor Carrington J. Tatum before I was officially hired was about how I felt Mo’Nique overreacted to Netflix not paying her what she was worth.
After joining, I would attend hours-long opinion section meetings, pitching vague ideas for columns and conversing with the rest of the team about nonsense, until we were all tired and ready to go home. It was my experiences in that section that pushed me to go out and learn more. I loved the people, but I absolutely hated sitting in a room with people who I felt were more intellectually curious than me. I had no other choice but to start reading, listening and watching more.
Fast forward years later, I am now graduating after having spent time in nearly every area of The Star, giving each task and person everything I had and more. I sacrificed valuable time to improve who I was as a critical thinker so I could contribute something special to this organization.
With every piece I wrote as a columnist, every visual or audio I created, every story I wrote or edited, every social media post I published and every decision I made, I never cheated the process. It was always about our community and actively working to improve the organization for our community.
The Star is flawed. I do not believe it was created for people who look like me. We are severely underpaid. (Most do not get paid at all.) The institution does not provide us enough mental health resources. People who care so much about the organization sometimes end up taking on the tasks of those who do not care enough. We have repeatedly had to explain what journalism is and how journalism works to administrators and faculty members who do not have a clue.
Serving as a Black leader in a historically white organization at a historically white institution is extremely challenging. If we do not care, no one else will. The smallest mistakes we make could ruin opportunities for the next group of people who look like us. When we run into a dilemma, there are very few people to go to for the guidance we really need.
But I truly believe it is a privilege to work at The Star. We earn the opportunity to meet remarkable people and create life-long relationships — inside and outside of the newsroom. People allow us into their spaces and share their stories with us, for better or worse. We have access that everyday students, faculty and staff do not always have.
I am so grateful for my time at The Star — all of the highs and lows — and my hope is that future leaders of the organization will continue to do the work to understand why it is important to do what we do. It is my hope that they use the why as fuel to pay attention to every small detail.
People’s lives, especially in communities of color, are negatively impacted when we are reckless throughout our journalism processes. Communities depend on us to offer them this public service, and it is the job of this organization’s members to rise to the occasion.
My experience here was so great because of the people I encountered. I am thankful for every person who stopped to have a conversation with me, answered my phone calls/texts or responded to my emails; I learned so much. Thank you to everyone who sent me words of encouragement; you helped get me through some of my toughest moments.
I want to thank Tatum, Cameron Hubbard, Jakob Rodriguez, the 2019-2020 multimedia section members and The Star’s editor-in-chief hiring committee — all of whom gave me opportunities that were much bigger than myself.
Thank you to all of the columnists, reporters, editors and advisers I had the privilege to learn from these past few years. I am not sure if my toxic masculinity ever allowed me to say it enough, so I will say it now: You were integral to my growth, and I appreciate you all so much.
I want to thank this year's Editorial Board/organization leaders — Gabriella Ybarra, Daniel Weeks, Brianna Benitez, Cristela Jones, Rebecca Harrell, Hannah Thompson, Haley Brand, Eryka Thompson, Laura Nunez, Valeria Torrealba, Aidan Bea, Sumit Nagar, Bianca Landry, Molly Gonzales, Kim Davis Jr., Morgan Byers, Michele DuPont, Timia Cobb, Sarah Hernandez, Nadia Gonzales, Lauren Pricer and Amira Van Leeuwen — and staff. We went through what no other group before us had ever experienced — COVID-19, protests against racism, arguably the most polarized general election in modern history and a historic winter storm — and we made it happen.
We had tough internal conversations about how we could rebuild The Star’s infrastructure and transformed them into policy and procedure. We took on The 11% Project, which I hope will have a lasting impact on this campus community for years to come. Thank you for believing in me and trusting me to lead the way.
To the next team: You never know what lies ahead, but you should know by now the fundamental things you have to do to get to where you want to go. Trust yourselves and trust one another. I genuinely believe you have a great leader in place; please know you also have an ally in me.
The goal is to always leave a place better than you found it and set others up for success along the way. I gave it my maximum effort. I find comfort in knowing that I always did — and that I did it for the right reasons.
To finish off this piece as I did when I started in The Star's opinion section:
- Jaden Edison is an electronic media senior