Editor bids adieu after four great years

Kimberly Wethal, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s Note: Much of this column involves inside jokes to former members of the staff and are not meant to be disrespectful in any way.

Back when I was a weird combination of not-quite-an-intern-anymore but past a freelancer because of how much time I spend in the office, my editor semi-jokingly, but repeatedly, told me: “If you’d just drop out of school, I’d hire you.”

He reiterated the same message when he did actually hire me this March – I could have been hired much sooner.

I was always flattered whenever he said it, but I knew dropping out of school wasn’t an option. Without a degree, I wouldn’t truly qualify for the job I have now, but more importantly, I couldn’t morally deprive my well-intentioned mother of something to brag about.

It’d be, as I’d say right to her face, borderline-elder abuse.

As I turn the page in my life and finish my bachelor’s degree, I look back and realize that it was never the education that kept me here at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Rather, it was the Royal Purple that kept me coming back.

The ink printed in my textbooks had nothing on newsprint ink.

I privately went through a lot of the same doubts as a lot of other college students do. I often wondered if I chose the right school – a choice made because UW-Whitewater had hosted the Kettle Moraine Press Association’s Fall Conference each year that I attended while working on my high school newspaper, my cousin Tabatha had graduated with a journalism degree and was currently employed in the industry (a good sign?) and campus was only a 45-minute drive from home.

Actually, with my driving, 35 minutes. I don’t know why I lied to you.

For me, UW-Whitewater was what some would call “the safe choice.” I had a lot of days filled with regret and anxiety about whether I was actually setting myself up for success, or if I was defaulting to what was easy.

Destructive emotions like that disappeared when I’d walk into the Royal Purple office. Being on the staff gave me a purpose and an outlet to channel my creativity while developing a love for the Whitewater community.

It gave me an opportunity to push myself, take on tough stories and follow a presidential campaign. It produced a pivotal moment in my career – the Feb. 11, 2016 Democratic debate between candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – that pushed me toward political reporting. It triggered a domino effect that sent me to intern with an investigative reporter at The New York Times for a year and a half, two of those months spent sweating through blazers, ripping through 200 bandages covering blisters on my feet and developing a severe Starbucks addiction in our nation’s beautiful capital.

I owe everything I’ve become to the weekly publication staffed by a dozen college kids who model the industry well by drinking more than they should and who were just trying to figure out what good journalism means.

There were days when working at the Royal Purple wasn’t easy. Office politics and bitterly-divided cliques made the work environment tense in my first few semesters. Our 2014 Christmas party was awkwardly silent – we didn’t know how to talk with one another unless we were putting out a newspaper, or maybe we didn’t care to learn. In those moments, I learned how not to treat my staff.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the cover of the Nov. 9, 2016 edition, but the early morning hours as the election results rolled in resulted in screaming matches and tears shed out of fear for press freedom, as then-candidate Donald Trump had made a barrage of disparaging comments about the press and the First Amendment.

Tension flared when deadlines crept up. It was a newsroom.

But the good moments were infinite.

I traveled to Salem, Pennsylvania with our sports editor Andrea Sidlauskas as a freshman and watched the Warhawk football team win a national championship.

I covered a Trump rally with Amber Levenhagen, one of my best friends.

I jumped on a plane back home to Washington, D.C. with my co-editor Ashley McCallum and our then-adviser Carol Terracina-Hartman to represent the Royal Purple at a national conference, and in a four-day span, we ate at all of my favorite restaurants that I had accumulated in two months’ time.

Sen. Ted Cruz stepped on my foot.

I watched my managing editor Brad Allen grow up right before my very eyes, through the adversity of realizing he didn’t know how to use a dinner napkin at the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Convention lunch and witnessing the horror of him bringing his belongings in a plastic bag to an Associated College Press conference held at a 5-star hotel while wearing hiking boots with dress pants.

I would like to report that he has since obtained dress shoes and wears them regularly. I will need to follow up with the source about his access to a suitcase or even simply a duffle bag.

As friends I’d made from freshman year either faded away or turned their back on me, the Royal Purple staff became my family. They built me up when I needed it, kept my ego in check and made me look forward to drinking coffee black at 10 p.m. on Monday nights so I could stay awake until 3 a.m.

Sure, I could have dropped out of college and gone to work right away, but look at what I would have missed.

As per Royal Purple tradition, I have quite a few things to say to my staff and those who have gone before me.

In the past four years, I’ve worked with close to 100 people that have come through the Royal Purple. Each person, regardless of how much or little interaction I had with them, for better or for worse, contributed something to my life that provided me with the best friendship or the most important lessons that I could have learned in my young career.

Never wavering from the reporter I am, the list of shoutouts is in organized in the inverted pyramid style, with the most important people to me at the very beginning, and the least important at the very bottom.

It’s disappointing we don’t still cut inches off thanks to our online platform, so unfortunately, all shout-outs will make it through the editing process.

All I ask is that you take your ranking very personally (and remember that these shout-outs are deeply personalized, rife with inside jokes and not meant to be offensive in any way).

  • Sister Catherine – Oh, my beautiful patron saint. Sister Catherine was a nun doll given to me as a White Elephant gift at our Christmas Party in 2015. It was meant to be a gag gift, but I loved her. That made one of us – the rest of the staff hated her. She sat atop our bookshelf in the newsroom, watching over us, and was only brought down to violate the personal space of an editor who was getting a little too mouthy on a production night. I don’t expect any of you to understand.
  • Amber Levenhagen – I feel as if I don’t need to provide you a shout-out, because if there’s anything I need to tell you, I’m lucky enough to be able to turn around in my cubicle and tell my best friend in person. I am so grateful to have had your support and snark for the last three years, and for the future decades that are before us. To echo your own goodbye letter in 2016, I was so honored to hold your hand in the beginning of your year as Photo Editor; however, as a killer dream team, I don’t think we ever stopped. I am so honored to work with such a dedicated and talented reporter and photojournalist. Kamber forever.
  • Ashley McCallum – Breathe. Make that weird hand motion that theatre majors use to calm down that also looks like an Italian chef’s expression of culinary perfection. Channel Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Okay. Never in my life have I met such a perfect match as you. Having you in my life made such a pivotal difference in my college career. You gave me support when I needed, called me out when I was back on my “manure” (put the pieces here together, people, I’m watching my language because I’m not getting censored in my last column) and pushed both of us to accomplish everything possible. Together we redesigned our newspaper, created a product that told the story of UW-W and the Whitewater community and reformed the culture of the newsroom to be a place where people wanted to work. In and out of the newsroom, you were one of the best friends I could have ever asked for. Together, we traveled the world, ate a lot of food, drank a lot of pineapple rum, celebrated the days that were great and lifted each other up when the days were hard. Love you so much, Leslie.
  • Brad Allen – In a way very different from Santa Claus, I’ve watched you grow up in the Royal Purple newsroom. You have come so far from our freshman year, when you joined as a shy staff writer who wanted nothing but to be better. As you’ve developed in your career at the Royal Purple, you took on tough stories, explored uncomfortable topics, excelled in leading a section that you were thrown into and took that experience to be a great managing editor this year. I am so proud to have worked with you in management this past year, and am excited to see what you further accomplish this summer in Washington, D.C. and in your future career.
  • Justin St. Peter – SPP, you are certainly one of the most inspiring people I have ever met, not to mention the kindest. Your journey through life has been rife with different forms of adversity, but so often I see you live out the words “celebrate each day.”  Thank you for filling the newsroom with your infectious laughter, hanging a blank green poster above the sports computer and for setting me straight from the get-go by having my loyalties stick with The College Pub.
  • Vesna (Vanessa) Brajkovic – This is difficult for me to write, because I’m still not completely over our screaming match from two years ago when you told me you hate grilled cheeses and that the only cars driven in America should be Teslas. Begrudgingly setting our dispute aside, I am so grateful to have worked with you for two years. You’ve come so far in your career, despite English being your second language. The bond between the three of us – you, myself and David Fahrenthold – shall always prevail.
  • Carol Terracina-Hartman – My strong, Sicilian leader who was always far from afraid from confronting her student editor that stood almost a foot higher than her. Your guidance in my first three years of my college career was instrumental. You showed me what the epitome of strong was – you earned your Ph.D and suffered some of the most personal loses a person could ever endure while being our adviser, but yet you still supported us at the same time. I will never forget what you once told me – you never stop being a journalist, even when you leave the newsroom. Ever since that day, I haven’t.
  • Emily Leclair – You took a lot of verbal abuse from me over three years, No Budget. You took it like a champ and are likely a stronger person because of it. Or maybe it was all the time spent in the gym. I’m just going to take credit for it anyways.
  • Alena Purpero – I love you quite a bit, but have spent the last year with somewhat bitter feelings toward you because you live among warmth and I do not. May your life be forever filled with Ariana Grande and copious amounts of bowtie pasta.
  • Sierra High – Beavers one, beavers all, let’s all do the beaver call.
  • Nicole Aimone – I feel like I raised you from the metaphorical womb of being an fetus journalist when you came to come work for us during your freshman year. You made it through your Terrible Twos and survived your teenage phases, so you’re ready to be an adult and lead the newspaper. Thanks for being one of the few to understand my Starbucks addition and being the unwilling recipient of my sass this past year.
  • Monica Hart – I often felt like I saw you more in the bars than in our own newsroom. Maybe we both have a problem.
  • Mary Davisson – Keep killing the art game, Mary.
  • Andrew Eppen – I still can’t believe I know the EDM DJ McCoy’s Boy Eppen.
  • Abrielle Backhaus – I hope you still don’t hand-paint your truck with nail polish.
  • Michael Riley – I remember Aug. 3, 2014 like it was yesterday – a day where I paced and panicked all day long because I was waiting for a fateful call about whether I was hired as Photo Editor. It turned out that you forgot to call me. I am so thankful that you took a chance on me as a freshman; however, my favorite memory will always be the night Ashley, you and myself convinced a poor inebriated man to throw a hot dog down Center Street outside of Station One. Our working together was not a coincidence – rather, it was the sheer power of Reba McEntire that brought us to the same newsroom.
  • Jordan Moser – I’m so glad you’re teaching the next generation of journalists in your role as a teacher and a newspaper publisher. Some Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter will be able to look back someday with fond memories of their teacher Mr. Moser who inspired them.
  • Josh Sinclair – I still envy you for being a funnier writer than me, and will likely do so for the rest of my career. It’s a weird combination of resentment and admiration. As if that’s not enough, I don’t know if anyone can top your excitement for Billy Joel’s Piano Man when it plays in the Pub. He could probably take a few tips from you on how to best perform it.
  • Kirsten Tyrrell – You are one of the sweetest people I have ever met, and because of that, I promise you that one of these days, I will be able to say your first name perfectly on my first try.
  • John Paul Czerwinski – I never regretted an email where I was mean to you.
  • Brian Schanen – You were always too good for us. We didn’t deserve someone so out of our league.
  • Connor Moore – I’m so glad to have had  such a talented journalist in you on our Royal Purple staff, especially as you rocked that gymnastics beat.
  • Jack Miller – Interacting with you resulted in a number of migraines.
  • Gabby Neurock – You had an, let’s call it interesting, first week on staff, but you’ve got so much potential and I can’t wait to see where your career takes you in the next three years of the Royal Purple and beyond.
  • Benjamin Pierce – Never in my life have I felt about anybody in the same way I’ve felt about you – an intense feeling of disappointment and with just a little bit of pride. Thanks for the papi issues.