I met the Massachusetts Daily Collegian four years ago, in my first week of college. It began as a short fling between myself and the op-ed section, fiery and feisty in my freshman fervor (apologies to all the professors who said to never use alliterations in journalism). I wandered into an office stuck in eras past – its cork-board walls and blue and green tiled floors I view now, with the gift of senior wisdom and hindsight, as part of its revered charm. I wrote a few trash articles on things I knew little about (Cherokee Liz, how far you’ve come!), and then I disappeared for a while.
We reconnected off and on, I wrote for the news section here and there. I flirted with other groups on campus – a girl has to try on all the hats, no? I met Her Campus – the young, fun, flirty and free type. She introduced me to a girl gang of writers and queenpins who inspired me to embrace my role as a real live female in the professional world. A rendezvous with the modish Amherst Wire helped me discover long-form, stylistic writing. I worked too many jobs – from the Annual Fund to the Honors College, to the hollow halls of Sylvan where a spirited group of R.A.’s brought joy and love to their residents. I was fortunate enough to meet almost every personality UMass has to offer. I traveled across the Atlantic with my best friend and returned home, to the Collegian.
A love affair was settled at last: I spent my senior year buzzing happily, staggering along as web editor and night editor for the Daily Collegian. I found myself surrounded by dedicated writers, reporters, editors, designers; they strived to make an independent student paper a solid piece of journalism that reflected the dynamic dialogues and critical injustices that occur on our campus and beyond. And sports, too!
The Collegian allowed me to step in and tinker, to try new things and make mistakes. The paper grew with our staff, with me, as we experimented and reported on difficult issues that our campus faced, like vandalized hate speech and sexual assault. Our team did not shy away from new forms of storytelling or complex issues, because we knew that these unspoken topics, the subjects left in the dark, are who our readers, our generation, wants and needs to know more about. I often felt inspired not only by our staff, but the students we cover who work diligently to change UMass and our futures.
The hours the Collegian staff collectively spent on our paper outweighed the time we spent in the classroom. Our second home became that musty, old room in the Campus Center basement, where a century of college writers sat before us. They were with us in spirit, on those long, late nights of editing, fact-checking, laughing, making ethical judgment calls, eating burgers from Blue Wall and fixing what felt like a hopelessly broken website.
The perseverance of these underpaid student journalists will forever inspire me and the work I do, and it is safe to say my love for the Daily Collegian is forever here to stay.
Kristin LaFratta is the former web managing editor and can be reached at [email protected]