Why I stuck around

I came to UMass a naïve acting major and left a jaded journalist — and I owe that to the Collegian


Jackson Cote

By Jackson Cote, Collegian Staff

I came to the University of Massachusetts a naïve acting major and left a jaded journalist — and I owe nearly all of that to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian.

Transferring to UMass my sophomore year of college, I had no clue what I was doing. I had had a particularly bad freshman year and was looking for a fresh start. Cooped up in my single corner room on the 18th floor of Washington Hall, though, I was intimidated beyond belief by “the Zoo.” I had transferred from Emerson College, a school of around 3,000 located in the heart of Boston, to UMass, a school of more than 20,000 that is a city of its own. I felt like the smallest of fishes entering the biggest of ponds, and I floundered.

That is, until I found the Collegian.

I decided to venture down to the basement of the Campus Center in October of my sophomore year for my first news meeting. The Collegian’s newsroom was dark, musty and dirty. Overtime, I would learn to love it, as I proudly crushed cockroaches and watched as mice scurried across the office’s tile floor. Despite the grime and the extreme anxiety I felt entering a space and a practice I had little experience in, I knew I was at home and that this was where I was supposed to be.

Nerve-wracked by all the seemingly self-assured journalists sitting around me, I wound up signing up to report on my first story for print. Then-News Editor Stuart Foster, who was leading the meeting, explained how to write a news article using the classic inverted-pyramid model, and I was on my way, pen in hand. It was the first of many pieces of advice I would receive from the countless kind and hardworking people I was lucky enough to pass through the Collegian’s office with. They all helped me develop into a better journalist and a better person.

However, I still wound up completely overthinking what was an incredibly straightforward story, taking hours to write it. I wish I could say it was the first and only time I kept my forgiving editors waiting down to the wire, as I agonizingly nitpicked over every single word I typed. But it fast became a common trend for me. I’m forever grateful nobody murdered me in the newsroom.

Beyond the sweat, beyond the clamminess of my hands as I typed away on my laptop and beyond the many questions I got from my editor that night — mainly, “How’re you doing on that article, Jackson?” — I stuck around. I stuck around past when I got promoted to assistant news editor and later news editor. I stuck around to edit and write so many articles it makes my head spin now thinking about it. I stuck around through stressed-out phone calls from anxious reporters, disgruntled readers and our beyond-patient printers at the Daily Hampshire Gazette, asking whether we were going to send in our pages before deadline. I stuck around past 2 a.m., both working neurotically to produce the paper and procrastinating by playing mini-Nerf basketball games with my peers.

I stuck around, and I loved every second of it.

I’m thankful for my time at the Collegian, for the wonderful people I met through it and for how it helped me survive college. The Collegian gave me my first journalism job, and it gave me something to be passionate about. Most importantly, it gave me some truly amazing friends and mentors. There are too many people to give thank you’s to. The biggest one goes to my family, though, for giving me advice at all hours when I needed it. So many others did the same.

I know I wouldn’t have the confidence or opportunities that I do now without my two and a half years at the Collegian. Looking to the future, I do have some advice to anyone who, nervous and clammy-handed, decides on a whim, like I did, to go to a Collegian meeting: Stick around. You won’t regret it.

Jackson Cote was a staff writer at the Collegian and can be reached at [email protected]