E! True Hollywood Story: Mike B
If you were expecting a nice, juicy editorial section per usual, I’m sorry to disappoint you. This is the big boo-hoo section where every departing editor bares his or her soul for all to see. If I were you, I would certainly turn the page. I could not think of one institution that I would care less to read the behind the scenes of than the New University. If it was an “E! True Hollywood Story” episode, it would feature a more telegenic UC newspaper staff, and only if a murder or something horrible happened there. If it were a VH1 “Behind The Music” episode, it would be [laughably dated references].
If you decide to read on, you’ll get a nitty-gritty look into my path at the paper here. I don’t know if this style of farewell column is typical – honestly, I’ve never read a senior column before. I very easily could, but I’m a creature of habit, and that habit is laziness.
I think I’ve had a different experience getting to the paper than most. I’m not an LJ major (or even a humanities major, although I probably should have been). In fact, when I started writing for the paper at the end of my sophomore year, I was in a stupid place that many second years find themselves in: still reeling from the social vacuum of post-dorming and without a solid major or future plan. I wasn’t really doing much. I certainly was criminally under-applying myself. On a whim, I submitted an article to the New University just to get involved with something. Cheery, huh?
I saw the paper as a way to express my point of view to a guaranteed audience. I didn’t have enough fresh content to maintain a blog and I used to write for my high school paper, so I figured it was worth a shot. After the first time I was published, I have to admit I got quite a rush seeing my byline. “Gee whiz – I’m published in a college newspaper,” I thought to myself as Wally Cleaver lovingly rubbed my head with a baseball mitt.
Over the next year, I began to write a little more consistently. After writing my five articles in two sections (what you used to have to do when the paper at least pretended to have standards), I applied for a staff writer job. A year after getting that, I applied for an Opinion section staff position just for kicks, not expecting to get it. Evoking Cosmo Kramer, I fell ass backward into that as well.
The Associate Editor position has honestly been a hoot. I must say though, I didn’t completely understand what an orphanage of content the Opinion section is until I started working on it. It is kind of the bastard child of the News and Entertainment sections. We also are stuck with/blessed with (depending on one’s point of view) the “Antics” comic page section and any letters to the editor. Being such a hodgepodge of content makes the section an easy target for criticism, although most of the anti-Opinion sentiment is aimed at the perceived substandard quality of our submissions.
To these complaints I frequently say that unsearched, completely biased writing is not only good for the soul, it is also really the core of my section. When people vent, you really get to see where they’re coming from with no politically correct filter to distort it. However, these ventings are often filled with comma splices, split infinitives, mixed tenses and more, which is where I come in. The substandard quality of submissions we get would make an excellent coffee-table book if they were bound together and left unedited. When good pieces do come through, and they do every week, it’s a pleasure to pass my non-edited file up the editor chain (“It’s perfect! No changes necessary!”), if only to see the copy and formatting mistakes I missed tightly corrected in the final draft.
I think I enjoy editing as much as writing. A cliché analogy for an editor might be a diamond cutter, who polishes, cleans and cleaves a diamond with expert precision to produce a beautiful product. I have to say, though, that sometimes it feels like a more fitting analogy for an editor might be Father Time, waiting for a lump of coal to turn into a diamond. Some articles are trainwrecks, but I would say 97 percent are salvageable. I would credit the Opinion Editor, Charles, with showing me that almost everything can be put back together with the proper combination of meat-cleaver sized cuts and gobs of digital paste.
Perhaps the most fun I’ve had is “co-chairing” or, as I like to call it in my head, Assistant to the chairman of the Editorial Board-ing. If I were to go back in time and explain to myself that I would sometimes help moderate debates amongst a collegiate newspaper editorial staff, I think I would picture a cacophony of scathing Sorkin dialogue with Jesse Eisenberg playing me. The reality is further from that. Usually I would engage in a group mud slinging of some poor, defenseless institution like the multinational corporation Starbucks.
Editorials in many publications too often seem like yellow journalism; maintaining this trend, we did nothing to fight inertia and published whatever we wanted with minimal research. This of course is a joke. We didn’t even pretend to have the pretense of research. In all seriousness, the editorials are completely unchecked personal crusades under the guise of a group consensus. All kidding aside though, the editorials are submitted directly to the printer and no one even reads it before it goes to press. Who am I kidding? Our editorials are outsourced to China; no one on staff has anything to do with their publication.
At the risk of ruining this article with an abrupt shift in tone, I want to in all sincerity thank everyone on staff for making my year here really great. This group of people is really special, and they are all honestly “good” people. It’s rare to find all good eggs in one carton, but I lucked out. I have no doubts that they will go far in their personal and professional pursuits.
I’m pretty nervous about using an all-encompassing closing quote that describes some large-scale sentiment I hold dear. I always imagine that I’m on trial for some horrible crime that I didn’t commit in the future with one of my articles blown up as exhibit A, clearly underscoring a malicious motive. I guess if that were the case though, they could really go to any of my articles and find an extreme, nonsensical opinion. Ah well. Thanks again to the New U staff for a great year, and sic semper tyrannis.
Mike Boileau is a fifth-year political science major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.