I’m a business major. I’ve taken at least one math-oriented class every semester since freshman year. I’m not a great business major, you know, Cs get degrees, but it is what it is. I officially joined the leagues of marketeers as a directionless, misguided sophomore. A decision based on making a safe-bet for becoming gainfully employed post-grad rather than a genuine interest in “pushing product” on women ages 18 to 35.But with my most primal instinct being, “trying to look cool,” surrounding myself with the LinkedIn schmoozing, normie hoards of Lehmann Hall wasn’t going to do. I started slinking into Leader realms in early 2010 via crumby reviews – because liking indie rock is a compelling personality trait, hah, right? Right?But it wasn’t until I became the heiress to the A&E throne last spring that I started taking journalism maybe a little seriously. Coming on as a shiny new intern at The Onion’s A.V. Club </brag>, and to a less impressive degree, [redacted], I was feeling pretty confident. Promptly axing my marketing specialization last fall for a completely and utterly useless business administration major, all my chips were freshly placed into being a writer. This life plan is, of course, a total joke. Full of worries, woes, and parents who wish I would stop accepting unpaid internships. But, I digress.Like everyone else, my time on The Leader was full of massive highs and crushing lows. Reply all almost killed me, and I cried and cried every other day. Friday nights were spent transcribing interviews and 90 minute budget forum recordings. Saturdays and Sundays cramped in our esteemed maclab as ed board members developed increasing hatred for one another in-between bouts of Sum-41 and Alanis Morissette YouTube videos. But the Tuesday mornings accented by a new issue (almost) always made up for the lost sleep and unfinished homework assignments. Our dear student newspaper caused me more strife than anything else this past year, but it is also the main reason I didn’t hightail it back to Michigan halfway through my college career. So fuq the haters – we are trying our best.
Throughout my four years here, I have been able to experience The Leader from all the angles a person can. I started off as a staff writer, scared and willing to learn all that I could. I then became an editor, seeing all that went on behind the scenes. Then, I was Editor-in-Chief, in charge of the paper and feeling the pressure that came with it. Lastly, I became an outsider. Observing from the outside made my experience come full circle. In every angle I experienced, I always knew one thing: The Leader is under appreciated. The only people who know how much work goes into all of it are the people who spending days laying out pages, editing and writing. While some groups on campus use activity money to put on concerts no one goes to, or events that few people take interest in, The Leader is making a difference through writing, graphics and photos. We are, first and foremost, students at this campus. People tend to see us as the media or those who are just looking for a good story. Every story, joke or art we have ever printed has had a purpose. Even throughout our “number one place to take a number two” jokes, there has always been professionalism. We know when to be students and when to be journalists and artists. Hopefully sometime in the future, The Leader will get the recognition it deserves. However, we do not do it for the recognition; we do it because we know the importance of giving a voice to the college community that would not otherwise be speaking.As a senior, I am very proud to say that I was a part of it. How many seniors can say that in four years, the organization they are a part of won first place twice? Or that they got to know some really great, dedicated people who showed them how to become better writers? Or, how many of them can say that throughout it all, it made them be proud to just be a student at Elmhurst College?In college, some people may have regrets. But, I know I will never regret having been a part of The Leader because it has helped shaped my college years to be something to look back on and to know that joining the paper was one of the best decisions I made in college. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to making the paper what it is today. I want to thank all of them for making me want to keep reading even when I was on the outside looking in. And of course, I want to thank Dr. Ron for being the audience that is sometimes critical, but always honest.
I have clocked more hours in the Leader office than I care to count. Every other weekend of my college schedule has involved production of the newspaper in some form. I very likely worked on minute layout adjustments longer than on some of my regular course work. (Oops!)I never planned to get involved with the newspaper. I walked into my first Leader meeting with a friend half-planning to join the photo staff. Intimidated by the numbers gathered around the photo editor, I opted to start out on the seemingly quieter, graphics-side of things. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.Four years and several sleepless nights later, I find myself deeply involved in the regular function of the paper. I’ve contributed to story budgets, shot portraits, lectures and games, written a terrible story and created layouts upon layouts galore. I helped the paper move into a new office, fight to stay a recognized student organization and even win an award or two along the way.Looking back, I can’t imagine not being on the Leader. I don’t know how I would have spent all of those weekends. Or where I would have gotten enough practice with my design work and photography. The Leader has been an integral part of my time here, sleepless nights included.The people I have had the opportunity to work with are intelligent, passionate, driven individuals. (Some of us, even, a little hard-headed.) They always work past deadline and strive to make the paper the best it can be, at least for that week. These people take mistakes in stride, contantly improving their work and themselves simply for the greater good of the paper and (we hope) the campus. These people, my peers, are what have kept me here.The Leader has taught me more than I could have hoped for. It’s been quite the adventure, friends. I hope you agree that we’ve spent our time here well.
Coming into college I had no idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was 18, how was I supposed to make that decision? The only thing I did know was that I was pretty good with numbers and I liked the way I looked in a suit. So, naturally I decided to major in mathematics and business. Four years later, as I get ready to graduate, nothing has really changed. I still have no idea what I want to do for the rest of my life. However, there is one thing that has changed. I discovered something during my time in college, a sort of hidden talent: writing.I joined The Leader freshman year after attending the fall activity fair. I knew I wanted to “get involved” and decided the newspaper was the best option for me. Since I had never really written anything outside of a classroom paper, I quickly found my way over to the photo staff. I guess I did okay but to be honest I had no idea what I was doing. What is shutter speed? How do you change the aperture? Basically I would just point and shoot, hoping I captured what was asked of me. About two weeks in, Dr. Ron convinced me to join the sports staff. Maybe it was because he saw potential or maybe it was because there basically was no sports staff. My stories weren’t anything extraordinary. Although I did my best to report the facts, my stories were overtaken by a sort of cheerleader, “get ‘em next time” personality. I thought it would be nice if sports writers’ articles inspired some school spirit and possibly motivated those here at Elmhurst College to attend matches and games, regardless of the scores or outcomes. But that is not what sports writing is. See, what I had yet to discover was a voice—my voice.I took over as sports editor the summer going into my sophomore year. With the responsibility of managing the sports section came the daunting task of taking over the sports column. Still attempting to develop my writing voice, my first few columns seemed to have blurred the lines between a news story and an opinion piece. I was challenged by this. What was my opinion? Being the numbers person I am I would usually have something positive to say about the program and their athletes, in addition to the statistics reported. Finally, something clicked. I found my voice. And not just in the sense of my opinion but in the advancement of my story telling ability. Three and a half years later, my time as The Leader’s sports editor is coming to an end. Now, I would be lying if I said every second of being sports editor was easy or fun because it wasn’t. But looking back I wouldn’t change one thing about the experience, it made me into who I am today. I learned communication skills, met people I probably would never have met, developed lasting friendships, created professional relationships, stuck up for the newspaper even if that meant not getting an editor’s stipend, and reported the truth, even if it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. An experienced sports writer once told me, “The only thing you hold any allegiance to as a journalist is the truth.” Sometimes the truth can be hard to handle. And as a result people tend to “shoot the messenger.” Although the criticism may at first sting after a while it seems as though it is a rite of initiation.I entered college not knowing what I wanted to do. And although I will leave college with some uncertainties, it is because now I might have too many options. It is funny because I never really thought of myself as a writer and still have trouble doing so but there are opportunities available, it is just a matter of if I want to pursue them. Maybe another career will find me someday, but it is clear to me that sports’ writing was the best part of my college career.
You don’t realize how disgusting college journalism can be. And you won’t realize until the third day of a grueling production weekend, when you’ve eaten nothing but gingersnaps and canned frosting, and you pause from banging out mediocre headlines long enough to realize how long it’s been since you last showered. This epiphany won’t daunt you at all— and that might be the most disgusting part. You’ll just sort of shrug, make an offhand comment about spilling coffee on your week-old t-shirt, and ask if anyone’s up for a Taco Bell run. I learned a lot of stuff during four years on The Leader. How much Diet Coke I can drink before I get shaky and puke-y. How many Harry Potter references I can sneak into one issue. Plus, the little things like writing a news story or setting up a nut graph (less perverted than you think, disappointingly). The truth is, working for The Leader is constantly exhausting and thankless. You’re going to work for weeks on a story, just to make a terrible typo in the first sentence. You’re going stay quiet as your English class viciously critiques an editorial your professor doesn’t realize you wrote. You’re going to be cornered by an administrator who’s done nothing but tear the paper down, and you’ll have to be polite even as you dig your fingernails into your palm. Is it worth it? Not always. But that’s a testament to the paper, because even when we’re tired and defeated, we try damn hard. Every issue.And I loved it, the way you love a misbehaving puppy. Even though it constantly pisses on your bed, you can’t imagine life without it, because it brings you an underlying sense of joy. My Leader career has more contradictions than an Alanis Morrissette song. I’ve got one hand in my pocket, and the other one is writing a narrative lead. In my four years at Elmhurst College, The Leader’s been my purpose. I’d say The Leader staff’s been my family, but I don’t think that cliché covers it all. Maybe they’re the weird cousins who argue a little too vehemently about oxford commas. Dr. Ron’s our disapproving, chain smoking father, I guess (our family tree’s very complicated). We all want to hit a home run at our softball game just to see his gruff nod of recognition (that’s just a metaphor—we don’t play softball).I feel like I should put all joking aside and say something genuine—but without my jokes, I’m not really being genuine, after all. The truth is, when I think back on college, I’ll always think of The Leader. The cramped, filthy office full of discarded Big Gulp cups. The night one, two, three Leader staffers puked in my dorm room (yeah, I was one of them—I blame the cafeteria curry). The production weekend battles, the ICPA war cries, the haphazard road trip to Washington D.C. The distinct sting of a headline typo, and the pride of a simple byline—or even better, your name on the “good stuff” list of Dr. Ron’s Morning After newspaper critique. For my entire college career, I’ve been honored to work with such a dedicated, talented, frustrating, crude, stubborn, hilarious, wonderful staff. The Leader gave me so much more than a solid clip file. It taught me bravery, perseverance, and conviction for something outside of myself. It helped me grow into the person I am today—and I might be a little biased, but I like that person a lot.
I have never written for this paper, and I figure, why start now? All I could come up with are sappy clichés, anyhow. So to spare you the corny I-love-you-alls (and for the sake of space!) I only want to say this: The Leader has been the most beneficial experience of my college career and my resume would be garbage without it. Okay, supposedly I have more space to waste. Following the encouragement of a kick-ass professor, I am going to list my top six favorite things about The Leader.
1. Our summer living in Prospect
2. 48-ish hour trip to Washington, D.C. (Pangea!)
3. The quote wall
4. All of the lolzy trouble we’ve gotten in
5. Listening to shitty ‘90s/‘00s music every other weekend for 2 years
6. Having a secret clubhouse to nap in between classes