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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Letter to the next editors: where I’ve gone wrong

To Becky, Ben and all the future Carletonian editors,

I hold very sparse yet specific memories of my first year at Carleton. For most of Winter Term, we lived blissfully unaware of what would come at the end. Yet, I have a quite distinct image in my head. January 31, 2020. I pick up the latest version of the Carletonian in Sayles. I flip through the pages and skim a few articles, but I only stop when I reach a box with big bold letters: “Want to write for the Carletonian?” I already had a term under my belt and a serious lack of things to do, so, of course, I emailed those in charge and attended a pitch meeting that very week. While I enjoyed the meeting itself and even claimed a story to write, I left thinking I had made a massive mistake. I had never done this before and did not have the faintest idea of how to write news. And, while this is no longer true, I still believe I made an error. 

Now, with four years of involvement in the Carletonian, I’ve made many more mistakes. I’ve written forty-two articles, led the process for thirty-two issues and created a whole new website. While all of these feats are significant to me, for some reason, my human mind is only able to think about the millions of missing commas, AP style violations and misattributions that went into the paper. I wish I could say that this feeling stops at some arbitrary point in one’s tenure as Editor-in-Chief, but, at least for me, it never really did. In the interest of the newspaper and to save you both the time, I’ll tell you where I’ve gone wrong. 

My first ever article was titled “Computer Science department implements new registration system.” The pitch was perfect for me. It was simple and involved a department with which I was already familiar. It was also a news piece, which seemed to me like I was throwing myself to the wolves. I was not too keen on emailing people to interview them. I ended up finding my way around it, yet, reading the article back now, I cannot finish the list of things I could and should’ve done better. The only reason, however, that the article is not what it could’ve been is due to one simple reason: I didn’t ask for help at all. I didn’t want to be a bother and figured that I could do it all by myself. As a first-year, this wasn’t really a mistake. It’s just the way things work in the mind of a freshman. You are not first-time writers, though. You will, instead, be meeting many who are, and the onus to welcome them, onboard them and train them lies mostly on you. Securing good-quality writers who feel welcomed to the paper is going to make you and your section editors’ jobs so much easier. Do not make the mistake of assuming the writers will just knock on your door. 

A few months ago, I wrote an opinion article in the Star Tribune. The subject matter is largely irrelevant at this point; what I do want to draw attention to, however, is the comment section of that article. If we are to assume that the comments are an accurate sample of the Tribune’s audience, then I must have written the worst article known to man. Commenters not only insulted the ideas I suggested, but my writing as well. I’ll be honest, it felt terrible. Something that I was excited to achieve was suddenly turned on its head. Ultimately, letting this affect me the way it did is a mistake I won’t really forgive myself for. What it should have done is spurred me to continue writing, to write better and to keep pushing. 

This isn’t unique to publishing in state newspapers, though. The simplest of articles will cause your fellow Carls to express their distaste. And that is probably a good thing. What isn’t is the demotivation that one feels after the touch of critique. My drive to write more opinion-based articles tanked, and that is precisely what I urge you to avoid. There will always be some flaw to point out in any article we publish, and it is vital to remember that we are students, all of whom are still learning what it means to be a journalist. Sometimes we’ll misstep, but that is precisely what we’re meant to do. 

None of this covers why I think I made a mistake in coming to my first pitch meeting. It even sounds counterintuitive. I’ve spent years of my life dedicated to this paper; why would I be saying it was an error to attend the meeting that started it all? Well, that’s exactly why. We have spent hours and hours in our meeting room, discussing articles, having ethical debates, writing so much, and for what? We do not get paid. We do not receive academic credit. We don’t even have a faculty advisor or anything of the sort. We do everything on an already tight Carleton schedule. Yet we continue to do it. We do it because it affords us opportunities to meet and talk to great people. We do it because it’s something that genuinely calls out to us. We do it because we want to. I don’t know how rational it is, yet we’re still here every week, writing, editing and laying out. Call it a mistake (which I’m sure a few former editors would), but it’s a mistake I’m glad I made and one I hope you continue making. 

After all, college is a training ground. If you aren’t making mistakes, what exactly are you doing? It’s not like it’s about the classes anyways. 

I’m rooting for you,



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