Eleven states and Washington, D.C.
That’s how many places The Chronicle sent me to write a measly 750 words or so about sporting events that most of you saw on television or read about first from another source. Those trips were the only monetary compensation I ever received from The Chronicle for my efforts, which included a 40-hours-a-week position as Sports Managing Editor as a junior and pretty sizable fractions of that time commitment as an associate editor my sophomore year and Features Editor this year.
Contrary to what many of you think, The Chronicle does not pay its writers and editors anything for anything. All The Chronicle does for its editors is lower most of their GPAs by at least half a point, require their girlfriends to stay up until 2 a.m. just to say hello, create sleep deprivation problems and force a dependence on caffeine that cannot be healthy.
But I don’t regret a minute I spent in 301 Flowers drawing the pages of the sports section or the hours consumed at press conferences at the Yoh Football Center. There’s just a difference between those who decided to devote their lives to put out a daily newspaper and those that decided to focus more on academics and other activities. I’ve learned more from my experience as an editor for this newspaper than I ever could have from any classroom.
Being a student journalist forces you to engage with issues you know nothing about, and then share what you’ve learned to an audience of 60,000 or more by the next day. There’s also camaraderie at The Chronicle that can be seen in few other places at Duke, aside from some of the closer athletic teams. I’m not close friends with anyone at the paper, but there is a special bond between Chronicle staffers that few could understand. Dealing with the pressure to put out a quality paper everyday at a reasonable time, dealing with the constant backlash to the editorials, and on top of that dealing with the rigors of Duke academics creates a sense of understanding and togetherness that I doubt I will find again in the workplace.
Interacting with the fame and ego of others was also an invaluable experience. At The Chronicle I have interviewed or conversed with LeBron James, Mike Krzyzewski, Shane Battier, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer, Lute Olson, Gary Williams, Roy Williams, Alana Beard, Iciss Tillis, Gale Goestenkors, Dick Vitale, Andy Katz, Bobby Bowden, Ted Roof, Nan Keohane and Richard Brodhead, and probably a half dozen other notables that have currently slipped my mind. Seeing how these dominant personalities manipulate others, for better or worse, to shape their world to their vision is something I doubt I could have experienced any where else as an undergraduate.
I also saw some unbelievable things in my travels as a sports reporter. My flight to the 2003 men’s NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah, took off almost simultaneously with the beginning of the “shock-and-awe” campaign that started the war in Iraq. After the anxiety of the flight, I arrived in Utah to see war protesters. Within minutes, however, an obese man with the sign “NUKE IRAQ” in his hand had far more supporters around him. After observing that, the results of the 2004 election weren’t so surprising.
In addition to the time commitment, The Chronicle can force other compromises. Editors are not supposed to involve themselves in political groups or show any opinion in writing. But one can easily get around this, as this year I served as the secretary of the Duke Conservative Union, lashed out at John Kerry at “One Sweet Vote’s” debate between College Republicans and Duke Democrats, and participated in a controversial humor column published on Mondays in this newspaper.
All in all, The Chronicle defined my experience at Duke. Though working for the paper literally almost killed me—I was almost kidnapped by cab drivers on a trip to Purdue University (see my Nov. 19, 2003 column)—I am happy I stuck around through all the adverse moments and I am proud of the more than 200 times my byline made it in these pages. The Chronicle was not perfect to me and I was not perfect to it, but in the end I don’t how I would have wasted all my time if I did not have The Chronicle to go to.
Robert Samuel is a Trinity senior and a former Sports Managing Editor and Features Editor for The Chronicle. He is also the former Departments Editor for Towerview Magazine.
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