Last November, my acting professor Phylis Ravel (fondly known as PR) passed away. At her memorial service in January, several of the speakers talked about her desire to “bear witness” to her students’ work and to “hold the ladder” for them in pursuing their dreams. This profound humility that characterized her approach stood out to me, and I realized in listening to these descriptions that this was the type of leadership I hoped to bring to my work at the Tribune this year as managing editor.
I cannot say whether I succeeded in this goal; that would be for my staff to determine. I hope you can forgive me, however, if I take the opportunity now to publicly bear witness to the incredible work these people did these past 11 months. This group has so much to be proud of.
Robert Gebelhoff and Rebecca Rebholz reinvigorated the visual content desk like never before. Rob designed a new nameplate featuring the Jesuit sun to symbolize our desire to hold our administration, our peers and ourselves to the moral standards upon which our university was built. Becca brought an incredible unity to the photographers, not only in their photos, but in their personal friendships, as well, leading with grace and kindness.
Pat Simonaitis and Allison Kruschke commanded the news section with experience and vision. Pat was quick to be the devil’s advocate in any editorial board meeting to ensure we were seeing all sides of an issue, and he fostered professionalism and a fun spirit within his desk. Allison developed the entirely new position of projects editor, organizing long-form, research-based stories to accompany the regular, shorter news. She was truly a friend to all, and her contagious laugh made every day in the office better.
Joe Kaiser and Tessa Fox spent countless hours pouring their hearts into our editorials, and they constantly strove to offer more thoughtful and detailed critiques of the columnists to better the entire desk.
Matt Mueller demonstrated week after week what it means to have an incredibly strong, well-informed, entertaining voice, and his passion for his work enlivened his staff to challenge themselves in their writing.
Patrick Leary demanded successful anecdotes and concise language from his strong team of dedicated sports writers, resulting in exciting stories that in turn gave the writers more pride in their work. Mike LoCicero before him made leading the desk look effortless in his ability to always keep everything running smoothly.
Alec Brooks and Ashley Nickel led their detail-oriented copy editing team remarkably, catching the tiniest of mistakes before printing to ensure the continued reliability of our publication. Their in-depth knowledge was an asset to the entire staff, who frequently turned to them with any and every AP style hesitation.
And Andrew Phillips, my partner in crime, never strove for less than perfection. From the minute he woke up in the morning to the minute he went to bed, the Tribune was always at the forefront of his mind. For better or worse, he spent his classes sending messages about how to tackle an MUSG story, how to change the layout of the ads, how to best handle a conflict. He constantly looked at the work of other student publications and sought to incorporate their strengths into ours. His quiet but resolute leadership commanded respect not only for him but for the publication itself, and his delight in being surrounded by our staff members day in and day out was second to none.
I will stop there, only because this could go on for dozens of pages if I did not. These editors embody what it means to “hold the ladder” for others, to “bear witness” to each other’s work. Every single one of them challenged me to think in a new way, and for that I am so grateful.
To be honest, I haven’t yet figured out if this experience was positive or negative for me overall. I spent as many hours laughing late into the night with some of my now-dearest friends as I did letting my frustration at the decisions and attitudes of the Tribune’s advisor and of the Student Media Board consume my thoughts and overwhelm me emotionally. I spent as much time coordinating online content as it was happening as I spent baffled by the repeated assertions that the Tribune staff only “thinks about the paper version first.” I spent as many afternoons enjoying the editing process as I spent trying to remain calm after seeing passive aggressive, pointedly insulting tweets from my peers and even professors both outside and in student media.
And this makes me sad. Because working at the Tribune, as last semester’s faculty advisor reminded me, is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be an uplifting, educational experience. It’s supposed to come with constructive criticism from peers and administration, not derisive mockery. It’s supposed to come with trust and support and genuine offers of assistance from an advisor, not furious email rants and never-ending “Why aren’t you doing this? You don’t do anything right” commentary. It’s supposed to come with a business advisor who takes responsibility for her job rather than blaming her errors on students. It’s supposed to come with acknowledgement and respect from faculty and administration, not “No one reads your publication” and “Look how embarrassing this front page mistake was.”
To this, some might cry, “But that’s the ‘real world!’” And perhaps they would be right. But our “real world” right now is that we are students, not professionals, trying to balance a million things and stay afloat. We are students, concerned just as much with paying for school and passing our classes as trying to develop in our craft. This is our real world, and this is supposed to be the context in which we are seen.
To my peers with leadership titles in student media: There is no honor in making fun of someone else’s work or tearing another person down. There is no honor in being passive aggressive and unprofessional. Being cruel and scathing does not make you a bastion of “the truth,” nor does it make you a respectable person. Moreover, it does not make your work – or mine – any better. Nevertheless, I wish you all the best in your careers, and I hope you find success in your endeavors.
To the Student Media Board members and the College of Communication administration: Through my work in the Office of Admissions, I have been asked by four incoming freshmen this week how to get involved in the Tribune. They don’t ask how to get involved in an ambiguous, “converged” position that no one will see; rather, they ask how to join a publication that will improve their writing and storytelling abilities and will give them meaningful, journalistic work as well as an audience of 3,500 readers. It is my sincere hope for them and for all future students that they will still find an opportunity at Marquette to do just that.
And to our staff of 45 beautiful people: Thank you. Thank you for your unceasing effort and for the pride you took in your work. Thank you for not getting discouraged, as I sometimes have, by the decisions of people who do not read, understand or value what we do, but for being optimistic and continuing to do what you do best. Thank you for the Trib parties and the late nights and the all-staff meetings. I cannot put into words how grateful I am for each and every one of you and for this chance to have been able to work with you. I hope I helped “hold the ladder” for you this year. You have certainly held it for me.