The independent news organization of Duke University


Hooked from the start

<p>Covering Duke football’s win at Notre Dame was one of the many highlights from sports editor Amrith Ramkumar’s time at The Chronicle.</p>

Covering Duke football’s win at Notre Dame was one of the many highlights from sports editor Amrith Ramkumar’s time at The Chronicle.

Every morning between 6 and 7 a.m., former Duke men's basketball player and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas tweets out Young Jeezy lyrics, followed by the phrase "I gotta go to work." 

During my three-year love affair with TweetDeck, I've seen Bilas' daily tweet before going to bed more times than I care to count.

But I still like to start each day running The Chronicle's sports department by reminding myself of a similar phrase:

I get to go to work. 

Choosing to lead coverage of Duke's 26 varsity teams right after running the entire Chronicle for a year made many people look at me like I was certifiably insane. Was essentially living in 301 Flowers for 365 more days really what I wanted to do just days removed from chasing everyone from Joe Biden to groups of protestors around campus? 

For me, the choice was easy. Many seniors enter their final year of college with a number of bucket-list items, but I only had one main goal I wanted to accomplish before leaving Durham—serving as editor for the department that gave me an unexpected career path and brought out a passion I never even knew existed.

When I arrived at Duke in Fall 2013, I knew very little about journalism, and looking back, very little about Duke sports. Born and raised in the football-crazed town of Norman, Okla., I thought my experience in student journalism would consist of writing a few stories here and there as I worked my way toward law school. 

But the strangest thing happened to me as I got my start by building a relationship with the winningest women's golf coach in Division I history and writing about ACC football—I became addicted to seeing my name on The Chronicle's website.

As I spent more time in our office and connected with the upperclassmen leading us at the time, I felt more motivated to write about sports I previously had little interest in and pick up the stories no one else wanted to write. Editors and other writers pitching stories soon became friends asking me to do something I loved, so it was pretty easy to say yes. 

After my first interview with women's basketball head coach Joanne P. McCallie, she started walking away before pausing, looking at me and saying, "Those were really good questions." That was the first time I realized I might actually have potential as a journalist beyond The Chronicle. 

And before starting my second semester, I had gotten a free trip home before finals as a reporter—I also had my first experience as a photographer and got hit with the ball—slept in The Chronicle's office to cover a winter-break women's basketball game against Connecticut and sat courtside at Cameron to write about Duke men's basketball for the first time. 

Hooked probably doesn't do my relationship with the organization justice. 

Trying to join a selective living group or Greek organization never really entered my mind since I had already found an organization to dedicate myself to and the group of people I wanted to spend the rest of college with. That probably should have been the first clue that I was having anything but the typical Duke experience. 

In the months that followed, I kept writing stories and blogs whenever I could and even found time to send one of my mentors, Ryan, the completely wrong directions when we were traveling to Winston-Salem, N.C., for Duke's men's basketball's game at Wake Forest. Who knew Wake Forest was a separate town?

I got promoted to sports blog editor the last day of classes of my freshman year, beginning a three-year streak of having TweetDeck open almost 24/7 as I scoured the Internet for interesting stories like this one. I actually enjoyed helping other writers in editing—in retrospect, that also probably should have been a warning sign that there was something off about me—and my new responsibilities made me want to learn even more about journalism. 

Covering Duke women's golf's sixth national championship in person wasn't too bad, either. 

My sophomore year was when eye-opening experiences started becoming routine. I became familiar with the ins and outs of doing breaking news, publishing stories and seeing my work credited to some random person named Staff Reports. The first time I covered a Duke football game, Shaun Wilson broke the team's single-game rushing record on just 12 carries. 

Soon after, I became a beat writer for the men's basketball team and traveled to Indianapolis for the Champions Classic. I learned that Waffle House tastes even better than normal when your flight gets delayed and you don't have time to eat pregame. My journey that winter was just beginning, though, because soon I found out I would be spending Christmas in El Paso, Texas, covering the Sun Bowl. Like pretty much every sacrifice I've made for The Chronicle, that one was still completely worth it.  

In the following month and a half, I covered the game that turned the 2014-15 men's basketball championship season around at Louisville, saw Tyus Jones quiet a packed house in Charlottesville, Va., witnessed the best college basketball I've ever seen when Duke went on a 43-7 run against Notre Dame and got stuck in Syracuse, N.Y., for two days during a winter storm. Thanks, United. 

Luckily, I still made it back in time to cover the UNC game.

I started transitioning into the editor-in-chief role pretty soon after that but was still fortunate enough to edit and publish the initial story when the Blue Devils won their fifth national title in April 2015. That process put a lot of previous moments when I thought I was under pressure in perspective. 

Stepping away from sports and putting off my goal of becoming sports editor for a year was one of the toughest things I've ever had to do. I'm so glad I did, though, because there's no substitute for the journalistic or leadership training I gained in those 12 months. I also still managed to go to Blacksburg, Va., and cross an item off my football bucket list. 

Before I knew it, I was moving my stuff from the front of 301 to the back as I became sports editor. 

And as I ponder retirement and what to do with all my newfound free time, I'm thrilled to say my second year on The Chronicle's upper masthead was just as incredible as my first. 

From putting together inspirational profiles to covering several magical moments—Duke football's win at Notre Dame and the men's basketball's team's historic ACC championship, just to name a few—this year also taught me an enormous amount about what it means to be a journalist. I worked on a five-part series about the University's outgoing president, did more investigative work and grew even closer with the people I've been lucky enough to work with every day. 

So having crafted hundreds of articles, blog posts, tweets and Facebook posts, here I am at the end of my Duke experience. 

I'm actively taking suggestions on what to do with my free time, and I'll put my four years here up against anyone else's. 

Amrith Ramkumar is a Trinity senior. He served as editor-in-chief of The Chronicle's 111th volume and sports editor of its 112th. He would like to thank his friends and family for understanding/pretending to understand when he always put The Chronicle first, all of the editorial and business staffers that made his time here so fulfilling, his professors for not failing him despite frequent in-class naps and the late-night staffs at McDonald's and Pitchforks/Cafe Edens for the endless supply of fries and tots. 


Share and discuss “Hooked from the start” on social media.