The Editor's Soapbox

I love journalism. It is more than a job: It is a passion. Some people have said that it goes back to my love of writing. I think it goes far beyond that. There is something about the entire process of finding the perfect story and watching it materialize that puts a smile on my face.

This is why I slave at the Guardian for minimal pay. For me, the compensation is in the result. I can think of nothing more satisfying (save for woman-related activities) than walking through the halls of campus on a Monday or Thursday morning and seeing students reading an article that I wrote or gazing at a page that I laid out.

I have known little of the ways of work other than journalism. My mother told me to get a job when I was 16. After dragging my feet for a few months, I stumbled across an ad in the local paper that announced the opening of a sports reporter position. The ad said that the position was open to students and that no experience was necessary. It seemed like the least amount of work that I could possibly do while still getting paid, so I decided to apply.

The interview was short and general. The writing test was elementary. The sports editor called me back a week later and offered me the job, which I happily accepted. Not only did I now have a cake job, but I was also getting paid to watch sports. It was a dream come true.

It was a small-town paper with a readership of only around 30,000 people. My first assignment was to cover a Little League game. I watched the game, timidly conducted only two interviews and proceded to write a piece-of-shit article. When I opened the paper the next day, I was ecstatic to see my name in the byline. My level of excitement soon dropped when I saw that I was looking at a different article than the one I had turned in; most of it had been rewritten.

While most young writers would have been discouraged by this, I was still hooked. I raced to the sports department of the paper (which consisted of only two people) and begged for them to teach me. I was like a sponge, ready to soak up any bit of knowledge that they had to offer. After I wrote my next article, I stayed later and watched them hack my article to shreds, learning what I had done wrong and filing the information away for future use. Soon my articles needed no hacking, just small touches.

I worked at that paper until I came to college. I spent many nights covering high school sports, a few college games and even a pro game or two. I worked my way up to a regular news reporter, covering my own beat. When I left, the managing editor told me that there would always be a job open for me. That is something I took great pride in.

Whenever I told people that I worked for the local paper, they would always ask me if that was something that I wanted to do for a career. I usually smiled and told them that a journalist’s life wasn’t for me. The idea of becoming a professional journalist was something that I had only briefly flirted with. After seeing the long, hard hours that the editors at the paper had to put in for the peanuts that they made in salary, I decided that undergraduate study in political science followed by law school would be the better choice.

I came to the Guardian with an extremely cocky attitude. I had worked in the professional ranks of journalism for over two years when I joined this paper. I knew how to lay out a section, how to write and edit articles and what I thought to be a lot of Associated Press style (which I later learned was next to nothing).

As I spent countless hours at this paper, pouring my heart and soul into a publication that most people glance over once before depositing in the trash, I built a strong bond with the other students on staff. There we were, a group of students who, for the most part, do not aspire to become professional journalists, putting out a quality paper twice a week. I came to call these coworkers friends. We shared a common bond of striving for excellence.

I was faced with a rough decision last year. After not getting a position that I had worked very hard for, I began to question my desire to return to the paper. I wanted to become the paper’s managing editor, which is one step below the editor in chief. I wanted the responsiblility and the pride that came with that position. I felt that I was ready for it, but the staff found a better candidate.

The loss forced me to think about why I came to the paper in the first place. None of us are paid very well in relation to the time and energy that we invest on a daily basis into this paper. We certainly don’t receive any positive recognition from the campus. It is a truly thankless job.

But then I thought back to the days when I first began to work in journalism. I remembered the pride that I felt when someone read my articles. I remembered how satisfied I felt after producing a quality section. I also remembered how much I loved the paper. It was more than that, though; I loved the people. We had been friends. That much I never questioned. What I hadn’t realized was that we had become a family. We shared in each other’s triumphs as well as mourned with each other’s sorrows. That was why I came back this year. My family needed me.

Now, I have conceded that ours is a thankless job. I don’t expect people to come up to us on Library Walk and tell us that we wrote good articles or put out a quality issue. In fact, I expect criticism. I welcome it. It is the only way that we can improve and better serve the campus.

This is why I was so in favor of the Guardian message board on the paper’s Web site. I was eager to see what feedback people had for us. Imagine my surprise when I looked on the message board and found some of the lamest comments I could possibly think of. I’m not up here saying that some of my articles are not worthy of criticism. I’ll be the first to admit that they are. All that I am asking for are intelligent criticisms — original ones, at least.

The first one that I take issue with is a comment about my column about Barry Bonds. In the article, I call Barry Bonds an egotistical jerk who isn’t the premiere power hitter in the game. I said that he had a good lineup around him and a ballpark that was built specifically for him to hit homeruns in. The comments stemming from this article were disappointing at best.

One of the ones that irks me the most is one that states I am a horrible sports writer who has never met Bonds personally so I shouldn’t judge his personality and make assumptions. The comment went on to say that PacBell Park is not a hitter’s park and is, in fact, a pitcher’s park.

Allow me to retort. While this person thought that I shouldn’t make assumptions, they in fact made a few fatal ones of their own. Namely, I have been a professional sports writer. I have covered a Giants game in person and have met Bonds. There is a reason that he is known throughout the sports community as an egotistical jerk: He is one. Even if I hadn’t met him, all I need to point out to prove my point are the numerous occasions in which he has called himself the best baseball player to ever play the game, or the time that he actually thought about wearing No. 24 for the Giants — a number retired for the great Willie Mays.

As for thinking that PacBell Park was not built for Bonds to hit homers in: why, then, does it have one of the shortest porches in right coupled with a breeze that always blows out that way?

The other comment that got to me was some moron who responded to a couple of my articles by using the words of Triumph the Insult Dog, popularized by Conan O’Brien, and saying that my articles were something “”for [him] to poop on.”” Come on, can’t you even think of your own insults? That’s pretty lame.

There was also a comment that said that the person didn’t want to see my opinion in the sports column and that I was paid to write about sports. If you’re not supposed to put your opinion into a column, then what are you supposed to put into it?

I bring up these instances not to sound like a third-grader getting in a name-calling contest (although I invite those two half-wits to come out of their cave-like dorms of Internet porn and soap operas and stumble up to the Guardian office for one anytime), but rather to illustrate a point. We, the staff of this fine paper, put this rag out for you, the students. We do so for little pay and even littler respect from the masses.

I’m not saying that you have to love everything we publish and praise us for it, but don’t resort to unsubstantiated name-calling. I’m not here to be crying about it like a child, but am here more as a big brother looking out for my younger siblings and elderly grandparents, whom I feel obligated to protect.

I welcome your criticisms. Like I said before: I want to know what you think so that I can improve. But really people, would it kill you to dish out a compliment every now and then? Think about it.

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