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Editor-in-Chief ignites spark before exit

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By Ashley McCallum

 

A former Royal Purple Editor-in-Chief once wrote that this job is about putting out flames and being a firefighter, but I disagree. This job is about igniting sparks.

When I assumed the position as co Editor-in-Chief, I came in with to-do list longer than my 5’4” stature. I knew that this paper should not be about us, it should be about you, our community.

This was not an easy task. Our staff and I had to create plans and strategies on how we can make our community, and ourselves, care about journalism again. We did so with a redesign, long-term investigative reporting, the Best of Whitewater project and week after week of loving what we do.

This was not always peachy-keen and jelly beans and I will be the first to admit that. I sat in a meeting where our Chancellor openly blamed our newspaper for contributing to being the most difficult part of her first year as Chancellor. I went to bat for our staff when administration was not happy about some of our content. And most upsettingly, I watched a number of faculty and staff do their best to work against us. Unfortunately, not everyone is always all about student growth and development at universities, especially when it works against their own personal gain. Some people think that when they sit in an important “chair” that they have the right to ruin peoples’ lives, but our job is to prevent that.

These sparks against us were the most important ones. They taught us how to face adversity with grace and not let roadblocks end our journey. I see these challenges as a positive because even if the sparks got in our eyes, at least we knew people were doing our job as journalists and watchdogs.

When not pissing people off, we as a staff were actively sparking interest within our community with our newspaper. We focused on big issues and human interest pieces that engaged people from all parts of Whitewater. These initiatives got people reading. Our pick-up rates and website and social media hits have sky-rocketed and I am so proud to say that we are making journalism great again in our community.

My favorite sparks by far were the ones we created in our newsroom. I have watched our staff collaborate, grow, cry and laugh with each other every week. Our newsroom environment was not always this wonderful in years past, but when I took charge, my mission was to cultivate a positive environment where our students can really learn what it is like to be a journalist, and I am thrilled to say that these people exceeded my expectations by far.

We are here to fill the gaps where our curriculum does not benefit us, and trust me, there are a lot of gaps. The journalists who leave our office are fully prepared to take on the real world, and I am proud to be a part of that legacy.

Student media is important. Freedom of Speech allows you to say we suck, but it also allows me to say you’re wrong. Our staff works tirelessly to produce content that makes our community proud. I love them and I love the opportunities this newspaper has given me. Without the RP, I would not have the big-girl job I will start in a few weeks, I would not have the amazing friends I have and I would not have had the best experience any student at UW-W can have.

A goodbye letter would be nothing without some shout outs, so here I go…

 

The OGs

Kevin Cunningham: These shoutouts have to start with you, because you’re really the reason I am here. As freshman you told me you could see me one day being EIC and I thought you were crazy. You are, but not for that reason (s0z). You were by far one of the best editors the RP has ever seen and I thank you so much for coaching me in my cringe-worthy early days.

Schultz: You suck.

Vesla: We made a dang good management team considering we were nowhere near prepared to take over when we did. Thank you for being the only person who understands how everything is socially constructed and that grilled cheese is really not that great.

A-Team: You’re my best friend, partially due to the bond this paper created. If anything, this fact alone made the last four years completely worth it.

Jake Prinsen: I have had a crush on you since the minute you started writing for us. I’m a sucker for distressed flannel and people who are way smarter than me. You really are the best writer I have ever met and I cannot wait to buy one of your books one day.

Amber and Josh: You both have the same dry, witty humor that made you a couple of my favorites, even though Josh never let me use his senior citizen discount. I am proud of the work you are doing out in the real world, and of all the beer you have consumed since leaving.

 

The current Ballers-in-Charge

Emily and K-Town: I thank you both for doing a job I don’t think I ever could have done. Emily, your future is as bright as your smile and K-Town, after witnessing your make-shift Kobe Bryant speech, I know you can do anything.

Nicole and Hannah: I lump y’all together because you really are two halves of a younger me. I see so much potential and leadership in the two of you and I cannot wait to see what you accomplish.

Anna: I commend you for taking on such a large task as a freshman. I have no doubt in my mind that you will be running the world some day with an almond-butter sandwich and Coach bag in hand.

Kirsten and Colin: You are both incredibly talented artists. You helped make our visually-challenged writers look good and we appreciate that.

Josh Sinclair: Please marry me.

Jape and Monica: Between the two of you, I am positive one of you holds the record for most laughs created in the RP office. You were wonderful additions to our family.

No Budget: You put up with more nonsense than anyone I have ever seen and did so with pride. Your love and passion for the RP is honorable and I truly apologize for the horrible situation that was placed upon you this last year. Thank you so much for sticking by us.

SiSi Sounds: Beaver is love, beaver is life.

Connor: This shoutout is a particularly difficult one to write. No two people can fight as often as we do but still care about each other just as much, if not more. I am thankful every day that I met you.

Chad: Watching you grow up with this paper was one of my favorite memories from college. I watched you break out of your cocoon and turn into a beautiful reporter-editor-butterfly, and for that I am thankful. Your journey is nowhere near over, and I cannot wait to be there for it as long as I can. The Gazette isn’t ready for what our duo is going to bring to the table.

 

Mama T (aka THE Dr. Carol Terracina-Hartman)

In 21 years, I have never seen a greater example of strength than you have shown me while being my advisor and mentor. You taught me that the only time we use a quote in a lead if it is “I’m back,” Jesus said. But more importantly, you showed me how to grow from an obnoxious kid with big dreams and inappropriate music, to a strong leader, professional and woman. The Pope, Mother Teresa, Princess Diana (almost), Eminem (kinda) and your students were all very lucky to have met you. Thank you does not say enough, but it will have to do for now. If it was up to us, you would be the Royal Purple advisor forever. Please remember that the horrible people here are nowhere near the amazing ones. We love you Mama T.

 

And now for you two…

St. Pete Pete: I remember four years ago, one of my first stories was about the wheelchair basketball team. I had no clue where to begin, but you were there immediately to help me out. That moment showed how kind you are, and ever since then you keep proving that to me. It is amazing to me that we have only known each other for four years, because it feels like a lifetime. We are truly long-lost best friends. I hope to always find you when “Broccoli” comes on. Thank you for putting up with my special kind of crazy.

Kim Kim: Oh no. Here it is. I am trying to think of what RBG would say right now, but that is being crowded by Sister Katherine’s creepy eyes. Being co EICs with you was a privilege. Our skills balance each other out better than waffles and syrup and your wit and humor constantly pushes me to be wittier and more humourous. You are a talented young woman with big dreams and a big future. Not only will you move mountains, you will shatter them, right alongside the glass ceiling. You are the Ann to my Leslie, and this newspaper is our Olive. I love you and I promise I will be back sooner than you know it for some mac and cheese.

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Editor-in-Chief ignites spark before exit