Reading and Writing Beyond the Byline

    For a kid weaned on fantastical films and superheroes, I sure picked the wrong day job, my ma always told me.

    From her lips, paraphrased: There is little that’s publicly glorious and honorable about journalists. They’re treated as wholesale dissenters, impulsively shaking cages and recklessly crying foul. Though journalists form arguably the most powerful caste of public servants, thanks for that service is minimally apparent and immediate – the thanks are in the byline, and that’s about it. The establishment scorns them, readers constantly jab at their work and lethargy is a sad, unavoidable default; by age 50, expect to lose youth’s sharp verve to tiredly settle on the job’s second tier, where press releases are regurgitated, self-censorship abounds and self-fulfillment comes from the home, not the office.

    Well, ma, I’m still 31 years removed from 50. And the next year should be one of the most rousing ones yet. There’s no amount of motherly foretelling or self-made pessimism that could have convinced me otherwise – my route to this point has been set for a long while.

    Such certainty was made obvious to me throughout my three-year career here. Coworkers would inquire about the advantages of Guardian seniority. Administrative interviewees would prod me about my place in the future of Guardian leadership. I ran unopposed for the editor in chief position.

    Even now, just two weeks into my tenure, such certainty can logically breed laziness. Who wants to work any harder when your path has already been set?

    I do. For a child constantly absorbing ma’s mantras and dictums (“”It’s not what you say but how you say it,”” “”health is important, you only have one body””), I often questioned why my life wasn’t easier. The Guardian has helped me figure out that answer: Doing well at your job and life isn’t about doing things easy, it’s about paining yourself to be better.

    And at this newspaper, there’s a lot of pain to go around. There’s late nights, curt interviews and looming deadlines, blood, sweat, vomit and tears. Yet, we’re still here and loving this place. The informative mission of this organization is bigger than any of us; we should all realize that.

    From the best Hiatus writer to common News writer to fresh page designer, it’s imperative to recognize the job’s heavy consequence, the honor in respecting that consequence on paper and how self-imposed idleness can wreck everything. With such sensibilities, the byline becomes more. It becomes something bigger: you have the privilege to chronicle a sliver of life, a policy that is approved, an album you love.

    To our writers and staff, take advantage. There’s rarely a job like this around. The Guardian is attached to no system or establishment. There is no machine that checks us or tells us what to do. Our editors are truly free-minded, as much as the words you write, the pages you design and the sentences you edit are truly yours. The only chains are the ones we tie ourselves in – that should both excite and scare you. There is no ceiling at the Guardian, but the climbing is up to you.

    To the readers, you are our pulse. Be unmercifully honest. Working long hours in dark offices often force us to be insulated. You can bring us the world outside of these four walls.

    To departing and past staff, thank you. I am unimaginably humbled that I have been tapped for this esteemed position, and everything comes from the time I’ve spent with you all.

    To future staff, keep looking forward. Though much of this piece is about self-starting self-improvement, believe that I will be there always to help you along.

    And to ma, who bags and rags on me because she loves me – a strange contradictory relationship, but one that drives me to do better, be better and work more.

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