Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

My discovery that Amherst isn’t just farmland

Telling stories of the Amherst community has been one of the greatest privileges
Courtesy of Jack Underhill

I can’t say I was excited to come to Amherst. Upon first glance, and from what I was told many times before, it is just a vast expanse of fields, cows and crops. As a journalism major, I was especially skeptical that there would be anything of interest to write about. But I enrolled anyway, because the University of Massachusetts was relatively cheap.

Now, when I reflect on my four years at this newspaper, I smile thinking about the culmination of laughs, arguments and conversations that reaffirmed my passion for news and introduced me to the community that I would be a part of for the next four years.

At the end of my junior year, I published a story examining UMass’ regulation of COVID-19. I interviewed administrators about wastewater testing to measure infection levels, faculty specializing in the study of viruses and talked with emergency management about communicating quarantine protocols.

But, after many interviews, I began learning about the student workforce that kept the complex system of public health management afloat. Talking to a sophomore nursing major, she shared her experience being at the front lines of a national pandemic administering vaccines in the basement of the Campus Center. It was her first time wearing scrubs and one of her first times administering shots, selflessly working to ensure the safety of her community.

Earlier in the year, I found myself outside of Jones Library talking to dozens of people across Western Massachusetts dressed in vibrant colors and rainbow umbrellas to support Giganta Smalls, a drag queen, reading books to children.

And now, over the past few days, my talented colleagues and I have been up late into the night reporting on hundreds of individuals spanning across the Pioneer Valley who came together in song and chant to stand in solidarity with those killed and displaced in Gaza, and were subsequently met with an unrelenting police force and mass arrests.

This is why I say I can’t pin a certain point on where my passion for reporting started. The community in Amherst is vibrant and alive and continues to amaze me with every story I pursue. Living within its heartbeat and writing about it for four years has been the greatest privilege.

As this year and my academic career concludes, these past few days have made it difficult to sit back and reflect, to give a peaceful goodbye or to allow myself a sense of closure as I spend a fourth night in a row editing and re-editing in our compact little office tucked under the Student Union stairs.

I have found that pursuing news is a compulsion; it is like an itch you feel on your back that you can’t reach and your entire body can’t help but drop everything it is doing to satisfy that uncomfortable feeling. The Collegian has provided me the opportunity to satisfy that itch. The excitement of breaking news and that feeling of profound empathy when hearing the concerns of my community that has such a beautiful way of coming together to address issues and support each other keeps me coming back to the office. And I am grateful to share that passion with so many of my friends in the Collegian.

Last year, I took on my first leadership role as assistant editor with my colleagues Luke, Grace and Caitlin. Being able to share laughs, memories and bylines amongst such talented friends is an incredibly unique experience that only happens in a college newspaper. Your tenacity and drive inspire me every day and I attribute my passion to continue storytelling to you.

To my amazing assistant editors, Abby, Daniel, Grace, Olivia and Mahi, thank you for inspiring such a strong, talented and driven group of writers that I have no doubt will continue to amaze me with their writing. Whether it was waking up at 8 a.m. to cover a courthouse hearing or sticking around after news meetings to gab with each other, your drive and friendship gave writers something to look forward to as they form new meaningful memories in our little community.

While I may be leaving this newspaper, the beautiful community that I spent so much time reporting on doesn’t leave with me, and that is something so painful yet so lovely to understand.


Jack Underhill was the Head News Editor. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on X @JackUnderhill16.


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