When starting to write this reflection, I didn’t know whether to focus on my time at Carleton or the Carletonian itself. Then I thought that it’s possible I might be too jaded at this point to focus on either. Then, finally, I realized that the story of my time on the Carletonian has often been the story of my time at Carleton as a whole, as the newspaper has played a defining role of shaping how I’ve experienced this school.
My first engagement with the Carletonian came my very first day on campus – one of my New Student Week leaders, Jack Noble, was an erstwhile Editorin-Chief of the paper, and he encouraged me to come to my first meeting. I didn’t speak to anyone, too scared to pitch an idea, much less write a story.
Soon, though, I was muddling my way through stories of my own about trigger warnings in classrooms and a drugs and alcohol grant (which, by the way, what happened with that?), relying on the handful of upperclasspeople I knew to help direct me to sources, or show me where the Res Life office was. Everything was new, simultaneously scary and exciting, and nothing could compare to picking up the paper on Friday and seeing my name in print.
Having been on my high BY DYLAN LARSON-HARSCH Editor-in-Chief Emeritus school newspaper, I came to the Carletonian with probably outsized ambition—freshman winter I applied to be Managing Editor. I didn’t get the job, of course, but I did become a Features Editor, and freshman spring succeeded in becoming Managing Editor when a large batch of editors quit (which, as I learned throughout my time on the paper, is not an uncommon occurrence).
I came into the Managing Editor job with energy, idealism, and a litany of things I wanted the paper to improve on. I wanted cleaner layouts, snappier arts reviews, pay for editors, regularized writer trainings, and to turn the paper into one of the cool publications on campus on par with the CLAP. I probably came in too fast, and definitely ruffled some feathers among the older editorial staff when I started critiquing them on their page layouts.
Obviously not everything, or even most things, freshman me strove to do with the paper came to fruition, but it’s that youthful energy that keeps the paper moving forward. As I continued my time on the paper, eventually becoming Editor-in-Chief my sophomore spring, my vision for the paper became markedly less revolutionary. As the terms slid by, I became more and more content with just putting out an issue every week and calling that a success. Editing the Carletonian is work, hard work, and just keeping the paper going each week required more than enough time and energy investment in of itself – dropped articles, broken computers, botched page layouts, low writer retention, late Thursday nights copy editing—the etceteras were endless.
By my senior fall, my last term as Editor-in-Chief, I started to question what it was I had given to the paper. There felt like so many things I should have done—new website, new computers, new writers—but my energy was exhausted just going through the basic steps of layout.
As I got more distance from the paper, though, I realized that I had been giving to the paper all along. Through all the energy and effort I had invested into the paper (my friends once accused me of fabricating Carletonian meetings because it seemed like I went to them so often), I had been helping the paper live and grow. Being so close to the crises and struggles of the paper, it’s easy to forget that the content we produced every week didn’t just get published and then disappear—not only is it a lasting record of Carleton life, but it also managed to do some good in the present.
Not to mention the friendships I made! Some of the fondest moments I have at Carleton have been with people on the paper, from Jack Noble trying to initiate new writers in my first year by having us eat a spoonful of catsup, to our first wine night layout with Emma Nicosia and Paul Peterson, to rooting through the old Carletonian office with Brynne Diggins and finding the women’s soccer 2012 highlight DVD, to drawing our layout chart on the board every night at copy editing with Ellie Grabowski.
So that’s how the Carletonian, and Carleton itself, works: plucky new editors come in, do their best, get ground down, and hand the reins off to the next generation. I’m proud of the work I did on the paper, and even prouder of what the new team (Ross, Sarah, Katy, etc) have improved on. I mean, have you seen the new website?)
Maybe cycling through Carleton is unforgiving, but it’s led to some of the most joyful and rewarding times of my life. Since 1877.