A year and a half ago I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown in The New Paltz Oracle office. It wasn’t the first time in four years that something like this happened within the confines of the orange walls, and it unfortunately wasn’t the last. However, it was the only time that I’ve had a realization about my life while crawling under a desk at an hour of the day too ungodly to mention.
Six of us were still producing the final fall 2010 issue when I had to get on my hands and knees and sift through clumps of dirt to reach a tangled mess of wires. I had not slept in 27 hours. I was fresh off of the school budget forum, anxious about breaking news I’d written from public documents that wasn’t shared at the lengthy meeting. My hair was sticking out in all different directions next to pens piercing through a sloppy up-do. But the front page story was completed, late deadline pressure gone and my first term as editor-in-chief just about done now that every page editor finished making their section.
But suddenly, the boy who would be my successor in three semester’s time couldn’t access files for the sports section he was in charge of back then. All of his work was gone. We would have to recreate six pages of the newspaper.
Andrew started apologizing more than I typically do, although it wasn’t his fault. I started pulling at cords in a desperate attempt to make the computer work. The Almighty Pierce Lydon was yelling something about getting off of the ground. The rest of the page editors – Justin McCarthy, Zan Strumfeld and Maxim Alter – were done and ready to go home.
But when I looked up, they were still there.
The three of them were tired and stressed and making sports pages wasn’t their job. But they wanted to help, even though I told them they didn’t have to stay. In typical Zan-speak, my favorite dirty hippie and Oracle crutch since 2008 said something that still seems too precious to be true.
“Dude, we’re a family. What else would we do?”
With the help of some higher journalistic god that must exist, the computer started functioning — but I was already crying, laughing and kind of convulsing. What was going on here? The answer presented itself to me on that night and many others, but I’ll spell it out for those that still doubt what an amazing experience working on The New Paltz Oracle can be.
I joined this newspaper staff during my first semester of college because I wanted practice doing journalism. Every journalism student should show up to a meeting or two for that reason. But you’ll get so much more if you become one of the students crazy enough to slave away and put this all together. You will indeed find family among people you might not have even spoken to if it weren’t for your shared love of writing and reporting.
Fierce groups of people have walked through the Oracle office door. But the Oracle editors I’ve worked with are not elitist, dismissive, self-involved or arrogant — only busy, trying to tell stories the community needs to hear. They’ll sometimes seem tired or make a mistake, but they always work their asses off and never, ever stop caring: about the way the newspaper and website look, about their sources who offered their time and information, about other friends who miss them when they’re at Oracle meetings, about their professors who may or may not understand why they are sleepy in class, about people and their stories and about truth.
Don’t forget that, New Paltz.
I now have to speak directly to the editorial staffs I’ve managed in this lengthy mess of a reflective piece, because my co-workers and friends don’t always get the credit they deserve. I guess my massive tenure puts me in the position to offer some motherly advice to the children of the Oracle. Here’s an old fashioned top 10 list:
1) I’ll start where I’m leaving things off: with the best “top two” editors I could have hoped would take over this newspaper when I graduated.
Andrew Wyrich, you really are my Oracle-world son. I wouldn’t have resisted my control-freak tendencies and stepped away from the top editorial spot for anyone, but as I expected, you have and will be a wonderful successor. My little derp has become a great journalist, a great motivator and a great friend…even though he won’t stop calling me (Jules) Magools. I’m actually going to miss hearing that dumb name daily.
Let’s not forget about your cute-as-a-corgi managing editor, kids. Thankfully my grrrl Rachel Freeman is finally coming back to America and filling my seat to keep Team Angst in control. I hope you will both help each other, and help the Oracle kids learn. Be the strong reporters and leaders I know you are.
2) However, as long as there are people around who remember the year Pierce and I were in charge, don’t call anyone else Mom and Dad. We’re still proud of the growth of this publication since spring 2010 and all of our Oracle babies, and you bimbos will be hard pressed to find a more crazed managing pair.
Zan can attest to that, as she’s been by my side through this four-year Oracle ride. But dude, it’s actually time to go. As you would say: AHHH. So you know, we’ll probably have to get jobs at the same place because I’ll likely feel a strange imbalance without my office constant and Ass Man. It would be a true privilege to work with someone with your talent — and copy editing skills — again.
3) Don’t mainline Amps, Venoms or Vivarin to get things done for class, work and the Oracle. Five energy drinks and a caffeine pill will make your stomach seemingly fold into itself…and then the twitching begins…
4) If thoughts of this newspaper swirl around your brain 24/7, increase the number of minutes you have on your phone plan. You’ll use them, to call, scream at and laugh with understanding peers. You could make a platonic life partner through those conversations — an obnoxiously inappropriate but extremely dedicated one who will be there for you when it comes to journalism and that stuff that happens in between. If you’re lucky, he’ll keep calling you if he moves to Florida.
By the way Max, that totally was not about you.
5) For the love of the Interwebz, keep that Oracle Facebook group going and let me be the troll. I want to continue to scroll through Maria’s cat may-mays, Suzy’s daily Bev-isms, see Ben write “lololol” 500 times, be involved in ridiculously long conversations about television with Sara Federbush and Max and offer my opinion about who the Oracle OTP is. Speaking of social media: never stop tweeting, Carolyn Quimby. Ever.
6) Lay off of the bleeding, salted-wound metaphors in the many budget-based editorials you’ll write if the economy remains firmly in the gutter. That ship sailed a long time ago (K-Spellz, sound the CLICHÉ ALERT). My other Bro-TP half won’t let it happen again.
7) If you have talented friends, get them on board here. It has worked for me. When you have a classmate whose work you are blown away by, ask them to join; they could reshape the publication and become close to you even if you think you’re totally different people. Never discourage eager freshmen and transfers either, because they could fall in love with this. All of the 60-plus people I have worked with on the Oracle fall into one of these categories. You know who you are, but I hope you also know how great you are.
8 ) When you all get jobs in newsrooms or wherever you want to be, warm up to your co-workers before you start channeling JohnBenét Brandi and his 12 personalities. Others might not be so accustomed to our crudeness, and I don’t want anyone fired for stripping in their office (that means you, Cat Taco) or harassment (quid pro quo).
If you are working in the media, also don’t forget to respect my fellow news bitches…I mean, editors…like Ashley Mirabile, James Leggate, Justin, Pamela Vivanco, John, Jaleesa Baulkman, Clarissa “Explains It All” Moses, Maria Jayne and Caterina De Gaetano. We are not afraid to attack with green pens if deadlines are missed because we keep it real, saucy and are known to be princesses on occasion. We all also may or may not be married to Anderson Cooper (share, Justin).
9) While you’re still at the Oracle, don’t judge anyone’s song choices on their music night. Some people like sad and sleepy music, awesome people need to hear The Boss and sometimes an asshole pledge bro decides that you’ll be listening to fire alarms all night no matter what you want to play. Whether it’s Hall & Oates, “Newsies” and Broadway soundtracks, Rebecca Black, Ke$ha, Beyonce, mash-ups, Miley Cyrus, Queen, “Dr. Dick” or pop/punk that you listened to when you were 13, we all bring the beat (especially John).
10) If you think no one is reading the Oracle, don’t get discouraged. The ones who care will quietly seek out the information we provide to the community, and it is our duty to deliver it. Never forget the power we have. This newspaper will always be valuable, as long as you keep working to get that scoop about the budget, undrinkable water, goose-chasing dogs and the like.
Don’t forget to allow yourselves to laugh with the people you’re sharing this unique experience with, too. New Paltz is a sometimes-ridiculous, always-beautiful place to cover, and there are others out there who want to learn more about it with you.
So, I probably should have made an infographic to explain how much this experience has meant to me instead of writing nearly 2,000 words. A pie chart showing how I felt about the four years I spent with the Oracle would be pretty boring looking, though. Although this newspaper added extra work and stress to my life, it was worth it 100 percent of the time.
This is the part where I am supposed to say goodbye, but I won’t. E-boards past and present, I’ve tried my best to always be there for you and I won’t stop if you aren’t sick of me. Call- -— I still have that extensive phone plan. Instead, here I want to thank you for your dedication, sacrifices, help and understanding.
I also want to apologize one more time. Surprise, surprise. But I am sorry if I ever let you down as a leader, if this has ever frustrated you, if you didn’t like how much we changed the newspaper itself or how much the newspaper world is changing on its own. Times are tough, and who knows what jobs or blogs or vlogs or Twitter or interactive maps mean to our brave new world anyway?
I don’t. I struggle with the fact that I don’t have the answers to questions about the changing media landscape and life in general every damned day. But the wise writers of a television show loved by many Oracle editors (hint: not “Law and Order: SVU”) taught me that sometimes, you need to let go and maybe even have some faith. I’ll try. I hope you will, too.
I have to go back to the island now, but know that I would walk 500 miles to come back home to the office with you all.