Massachusetts Daily Collegian

More than good enough

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Courtesy of Stephen Hewitt

Courtesy of Stephen Hewitt

Everyone else was gone, and I sat there all alone.

It was about quarter after 2 a.m. in the early morning of March 17 of this year, and hours had passed since the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team was officially selected to the NCAA Tournament – its first selection since 1998.

Myself and fellow Daily Collegianites Mark Chiarelli, Patrick Strohecker and Taylor Snow had stuck around campus – this was during spring break – to capture the historic moment. We went to Amherst Brewing Company, where the team gathered for the selection show, witnessed the celebration unfold and then made our way back to the Collegian’s newsroom, where we went to work – Mark and Pat writing their stories, Taylor uploading the pictures he took.

The timing eludes me, but at some point in the night, the work was done. Stories were published, photos were uploaded. Everything looked tremendous and Mark, Pat and Taylor took off to do their own thing. It was spring break, after all. I couldn’t blame them.

For one reason or another, though, I stayed.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself over the last four years, it’s that I possess a complete and utter perfectionist mentality, so much so that it’s probably annoyed the people I work with on more than a few occasions. Among other things, I may be best known for pestering and driving my copy editor and good friend Cameron McDonough on the brink of insanity by pointing out tiny AP style errors that probably could have been better left without mentioning.
Nothing is ever good enough to me. It’s why I hate almost every story I file because I think I could have done better. It’s why whenever I see a mistake I made in a certain day’s paper, it bothers me for the rest of the day. It’s probably also why it took me so long to write this senior column – sorry, Hannah – as I tried to think of the perfect way to approach it.

So as I sat there by myself in the Collegian, that windowless Campus Center basement office that has more or less become my second home, during the early-morning hours of March 17, I wanted to do some more. This was my perfectionist nature at full display.

So what was next? I made a newspaper front page commemorating the basketball team’s big moment.

Never mind that there was no actual newspaper being printed for the next day, never mind this page wouldn’t be seen by more than a few eyes since it would just go online. I didn’t care. I pulled up InDesign, opened a blank page and went to work. I placed the stories, threw in a few photos, even created a tournament bracket and – hours later – the page was complete.

A few minutes later, to my surprise, a janitor whose name eludes me but who I’ve had several late-night conversations at the Collegian with over the course of the year, walked into the newsroom. She looked at me as if I had six heads and asked, “What are you doing here?”

It was certainly a logical question to ask. Yes, why exactly, with 99 percent of UMass students gone for spring break and no physical newspaper to be made, was I working at the Collegian at 2 a.m. on a Monday morning?

“Good question,” was all I could mutter back to her.

Eventually, she left, and I sat there in the office alone again. But I couldn’t stop thinking about her question. Why was I at the Collegian, doing what I was doing, at that hour? Am I just crazy? Probably, but there was something more to it.

Simply, the Collegian has done so much for me that it would feel wrong to not give my strongest possible effort back. It’s where, as a wide-eyed freshman almost four years ago, I walked down to the newsroom and found my comfort place in this scary world of college. It’s where I’ve written seemingly hundreds of stories and held leadership positions that have helped me get valuable internships and (hopefully, and eventually) a job. It’s where I’ve made countless mistakes – let them ruin my day – and then learned and grown from them. It’s where I’ve met some of my best friends.

And then, of course, there are the memories, the truly incredible experiences that I’ve been blessed with and will never forget because of this newspaper.
There was the Michigan game, where we drove 17 hours to watch UMass football get demolished at The Big House, then drove back. There was Madison Square Garden, where I got to cover a game as a sophomore, go toe-to-toe with Ray Lewis on an elevator and almost got stranded in New Haven, Conn., at 3 a.m. on the way home. There was the Bronx, where we got lost and lived to tell about it. There was Atlantic City. The Barclays Center. The NCAA Tournament. The list goes on and on.

None of it would be possible without the Collegian.

There’s a saying that I first heard at some point during my junior year that you should leave the Collegian in a better place than it was when you found it.

That’s certainly up to interpretation, but in the meantime, I like to think the Collegian left me in a better place than when it found me four years ago. And as I’ve come to learn, that’s more than good enough for me.

I’m finally satisfied, and for a self-proclaimed perfectionist, that’s saying something.

Stephen Hewitt was the Collegian’s Editor in Chief. He can be reached at [email protected]

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