It’s daunting to try to improve something that has been around for 106 years.
An institution older than Duke itself has a hell of a lot of inertia to overcome, tradition to learn, history to carry on. Sitting in the editor’s chair in the corner office was a place I dreamed I would one day be, and when I finally clambered into that seat, I felt too small for it. Last summer, as I waited in desperation to grow into the giant shoes of my predecessors, I looked up at the bulletin board to the right of my desk. There, someone had taped a phrase cut from the pages of a magazine—clearly not a product of the office, whose daily miracle does not appear on glossy pages. Those five words, haphazardly cut and painstakingly pasted, have bored into me like the eyes of those editors who have gone before me: never less than your best.
I moved into that corner office and tried to make myself at home among the history: hanging paintings, adding a blanket, installing a four-cup coffee maker among the bound volumes, ink-stained upholstery and aging desk. But that phrase reminded me that I was only a visitor.
My eyes sought it out the nights I sat up late, trying to make sure the stories we wrote that served the readers’ right to know, but would not make me popular, were as close to journalistic perfection as possible. It was my battle cry when I put the advice of my staff and the Duke Student Publishing Company Board into practice to face ethical dilemmas, cruel message boards, ridiculous storylines and even renowned journalists who seemed too big for me to handle. And as I packed up my bag at 2 and 3 and 4 a.m. every night, it reminded me that, at least for that night, I wasn’t just pretending to be the leader of an institution I believe in more than myself.
These thin, inked pages you’ve held in your hands—or scrolled through online—every day have been the work of many people, all striving to be never less than their best. We have tried to bring you an entire volume of issues that probe for the truth, ask uncomfortable questions and shed light on the realest parts of this university community. And although I have had the distinct pleasure of being the face of The Chronicle when it received praise and criticism and the voice of The Chronicle when it faced outcry and questions, I have only been a small part of its success this year.
I didn’t break the news that Tailgate was being canceled, investigate Anil Potti’s research, question lawyers about felonious charges against students, record Duke’s games against Carolina or interview Karen Owen. These events shaped much of my life and waking hours these last nine months. Though I had only a finger in many of these final products, the editor is responsible for all content in the paper. How could I ever let my guard down, be anything less than my best and be responsible for this storied organization?
In the end, all I can do is promise you that every day, every issue, I tried. And as my year draws to a close, I have wondered what I have really done for this behemoth institution, for the pounds of pages The Chronicle has produced. A friend asked me last weekend, “Did you leave it better than you found it?” And I flashed back to that doll-sized, rising junior playing dress up in the editor’s office. Did I?
You’ll have to be the judge of that.
For all the questions and doubts and crippling symptoms of impending Chronicle mortality I have waded through as I prepare to feel the weight of this institution lift from my shoulders and settle onto another’s, I have a journalist’s certainty that one thing is true. This institution has left me better. I wish I could hold on forever, but I know I can’t. There are no sentimental remarks or crushing fears left for me to describe that 105 editors have not detailed more beautifully before me. So I will rest comfortably in knowing that I was lucky enough to touch The Chronicle, and I, at least, will forever be changed.
But more importantly, I hope The Chronicle left you better than it found you. I hope you asked more questions, sought honest answers and critically evaluated the Duke community. I hope you read our coverage with a skeptical eye. I hope you talked about an article with a friend, wrote a letter to the editor or commented online. I hope that long after you leave the Duke community, you keep reading.
I promise that every day I brought you a Chronicle that was never less than my best.
Lindsey Rupp is a Trinity junior and editor-in-chief of The Chronicle. Like her predecessors, she aches with the knowledge that she will never be either again.
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