Being a second-semester freshman at the time, I remember being wracked with nerves as I sat and stared at my Editor-in-Chief Pierce Lydon and Managing Editor Julie Mansmann. Pierce had his legs propped up on a chair and Julie, of course, was acting like the consummate professional with her hands folded in her lap.
I shuffled and sat down, nervous of how my editors would appreciate my work as Sports Copy Editor. I’d only been on the paper for a few weeks, but I thought I might have been leaving an impression. I had always wanted to be a journalist — honestly for as long as I can remember — and for the first time someone would be giving me constructive criticism straight to my face. Needless to say I was scared shitless.
I sat down in front of them, palms sweating and heart racing — but still trying to keep a decent poker face.
Instantly the mood of the room changed when Pierce blurted out something that made Julie’s eyes widen.
“You’re going to run this paper one day.”
Fast-forward 200 bylines, 84 issues, almost three stories a week, an incalculable amount of hours and a few extremely proud moments later and it’s time for me to pass the torch to someone else. My reign of terror is over.
It’s a weird thing saying goodbye to something that essentially defined you for three and a half years of your life. Yet, here I stand, forced to do that very thing.
I really don’t think I’m going to do an adequate job of saying everything I want to in this reflection. In a lot of ways I don’t think I’d ever be able to sum up all of the thanks I owe to my friends, professors and co-workers for everything they have not only taught me about the importance of news, but who I am and who I want to continue to be as a journalist and writer. I guess I’ll try my best to do them all justice, so here I go.
I’d like to think it’s safe to say I took Pierce’s edict to heart.
After three semesters being the ‘King Derp’ of The New Paltz Oracle, I look back on my time at the helm of the ship fondly. Online readership has skyrocketed over the past two semesters; I see more and more empty stands each week and finally The Oracle’s news each week is taken as fact — not with a grain of salt.
I’ve had a pretty crazy ride during my time here at The Oracle. I’ve written about issues that our community was passionate about, and have even been called a “pig fucker” to my face about one particular story I wrote. Hey, you’re not doing journalism right unless you’re pissing someone off, right?
I’ve been told that I fell in love with an inanimate object during my time here at SUNY New Paltz, and I’d say that’s a pretty accurate statement. From the moment I stepped foot into the orange walled cell we call the Oracle office, I knew that something special was forming.
There is something about that room. It’s cluttered, always chaotic, definitely a fire hazard and a museum cataloging the history of SUNY New Paltz. The office is a newsroom filled with people just as determined as you are, who are willing to push themselves the extra few hours on production night and who have actually consumed more coffee than is healthy for them. Inside the orange walls you see people at their best — but you also see them at their worst. You watch as your friends triumph, but are also there when they hit a low point.
Not everyone always feels that way. I’ve seen my fair share of people drop out from the paper. A few quit, a couple screamed at elections and a couple even just stopped showing up.
But those who truly understood what was happening here have stuck it out through thick and thin. We all know it gets unbelievably hard at certain points, but those who truly understand what is actually occurring always get through it. As we say, “the sun always rises, the sun always sets and The Oracle comes out on Thursdays.”
I’ve heard people say The Oracle might be something ‘acting like it’s more than it really is’ — and they’re right. Sure it’s a college paper at the end of the day, but it’s more than that; it’s an idea.
When you walk into the office, you either buy into the notion that our campus community deserves a student-news source worthy of merit or you don’t. There is only one newspaper on campus — only one — and it’s up to its staff how the campus gets its news. It’s really that simple.
It’s not an easy decision — I think any of my past or present co-workers would tell you they’ve had to sacrifice a few things for the sake of the paper — but I’ve had the privilege to work with some people who made their decision, believed in this idea and the body of work produced in the last four years reflects that.
At its best, The Oracle has shown this campus that it is the beating heart of SUNY New Paltz. We’ve watched from afar as tensions rose, solutions needed to be found, pointed out trends before they got worse and, most importantly, gave the campus community information they need to make their own decisions.
I can’t stress this enough — the people I met on the seven E-boards I served on were some of the most dedicated, driven and intelligent people I could have imagined working with. While their personalities were different and they may have had varying levels of manic-ness, they were all united under one simple belief that it doesn’t matter how many people read The Oracle each week, those who actually choose to deserve to have factual, relevant and contextualized news.
It might sound simple, but I can think of quite a few names who wouldn’t hesitate to agree with me.
Believe it or not, I wasn’t always the well-adjusted dashing young lad you see today — which is entirely to the credit of the one and only Julie Mansmann. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the same hyper-obsessed, maniac editor I am today without meeting her, because I was constantly trying to figure out how to be as good as she was. We were a journalistic-tornado and I will never forget some of the stories and papers we put out week after week after week after week.
I learned what it took to put every inch of potential and passion into my section when I worked alongside Maxim Alter, Zan Strumfeld and Justin McCarthy. Seeing the definition and depth each of their sections had made me appreciate the personal attachment a Page Editor has to their section and more importantly what great things can come from that.
I couldn’t have asked to work with better Managing Editors than Rachel Freeman and Cat Tacopina, both of whom had the uncanny ability to keep me from imploding on myself each semester. But besides being an emotional rock for me when I was slowly going crazy, both of them only ever excelled at what they did on The Oracle and went above and beyond when the paper needed them the most.
All of the page editors I worked with — Carolyn Quimby, Katie Speller, John Brandi, Maria Jayne and Angela Matua –— made my life easier each week by giving The Oracle spectacular sections while also providing their own unique spin on them. There are always parallels in the sections of the editors that preceded them, but seeing the subtle differences and watching your sections grow into their own is what made working with you so interesting and rewarding.
I also want to take one more moment to recognize the members of the current E-board I am on — which contains some incredibly talented and dedicated writers who will be the next generation of Oracle editors. You have done some pretty incredible work this semester, and each of you knows that. We’ve reached new heights as a newspaper and I know you’ll continue moving higher. I look forward to looking at the work you produce when I’m a ghost of Oracle past.
So, I guess it’s about time to wrap this up. This is my last thing published in The New Paltz Oracle.
Those words were actually pretty bizarre to type.
I guess after this final issue is published, I’ll have to start devising those plans for an Oracle-reunion news-start up we’ve talked about for all of these years. I was pretty fond of the “Bora-Bora-cle” idea that was thrown around. They’ve gotta’ have news in Bora Bora, right?
So, check your emails feverishly, Oraclers. One day soon enough you’ll see that it’s my turn to send an inspiring email from your “capitan” and have another journalistic call to arms.