The independent news organization of Duke University

Living in the moment

Last February I received a phone call at 4 a.m. I knew exactly who was calling.

My voice was shaking slightly when I picked up, “Hi Chelsea,” I said.

It was the current editor of The Chronicle calling to inform me of the results of an election to determine her successor.

“Will—Welcome to the brotherhood,” she said.

The phrase was a reference to something she had told me earlier. The Chronicle editorship is a brotherhood—only those who inherit it fully understand its weight.

I leapt off the floor of my Edens dorm room in excitement, and was immediately mobbed by two of my friends who had stayed up with me while I awaited the call. After more than 12 hours of deliberation the entire Chronicle staff had voted to elect me as its next editor. I sprinted up to meet them in our 301 Flowers office before they could change their minds.

At several moments, during the course of the next 14 months I wondered why I had been so excited to take on this job. One hundred and forty-one issues later, I’m still not entirely sure I’m ready to look around and see where I am.

I never planned for 5 or fewer hours of sleep per night, for blocking off my schedule from 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. every day of the week, for trying to memorize every entry in The Associated Press stylebook.

I’m not sure why I did it, but I know I would do it again in a second.

Every crisis I faced as editor forced me to grow as journalist, a student and a person. It wasn’t any single moment that made it worth it, but the collection they comprised.

Looking back on the 105th year of The Chronicle’s publication, I can’t think of a single issue that captures the way I would define our journalism.

Yet between scrolling through hundreds of e-mails on my BlackBerry, responding to angry complaints and worrying about how many stories we would have to fill however many pages in tomorrow’s paper, one of the few respites in my daily routine as editor was picking up a copy of the physical paper.

When I forced myself to look past that misplaced comma or sentence that could have been worded differently, I had the rare treat of delving into a concrete representation of what I had accomplished. Those moments—skimming over stories, photos and captions that I had grown tired of seeing the night before—were my daily reflection. It was the only chance I had to look around and see where this journey was taking me.

This is what the physical paper represents for journalism today. Unlike the ever-changing online product, it captures a moment—a freeze-frame of whatever stories were finished in time to make the print deadline.

Sometimes you’re shaken back to the reality of the moment by a dramatic event like the 4 a.m. phone call I received last February or the national championship issue we published this April.

In journalism, moments in the past may seem as meaningless as yesterday’s print paper. But as editor I learned to focus on those moments. They represent the journey, every single piece of it

And you have to force yourself to live in the moment if you’re ever going to make it anywhere.

Will Robinson is a Trinity junior and editor-in-chief of The Chronicle. Like his predecessors, he aches with the knowledge that he will never be either again.


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