The independent news organization of Duke University

No other way

About a month ago on a late Tuesday night, I was in The Chronicle’s office finishing production with several other editors when we saw a Fix My Campus post saying the first floor of Perkins was flooded. Five of us quickly grabbed a camera and rushed over to see what happened. We didn’t know if the flood would be worth an article, but we were curious.

Once inside the main Perkins stairwell, we encountered yellow “Caution Do Not Enter” tape blocking us from going to the lower level. The musty odor of the flood was already emanating from below. At first, we looked at the tape and hesitated. Then we hopped over it and herded down the stairs to find puddles of water spread across the bottom floor.

The flood wasn’t worth a breaking news write-up, and it certainly wasn't as consuming as some of my other reporting experiences over the past four years. But that’s just the point.

As Frances—a fellow Chronicle editor—and I agreed as we walked back to the office, that short field trip was the most exciting, fun thing we had done that day. It exemplified our power and responsibility as members of The Chronicle. If something happened, we were the first ones on the scene. And we weren’t going to let some caution tape stop from us going after a potential story.

As I now sit at my desk looking into space and thinking about my last remaining days in Durham, I’ve realized that field trip in a way encapsulates my time with The Chronicle. And I can’t help but marvel at these past four years with the paper.

From meeting some of my best friends at Duke to driving and flying around the country to cover basketball and football games to asking University spokespeople tough questions about institutional decisions, I’ve done things I couldn’t have imagined as a freshman in September 2014.  

When I arrived at Duke four years ago, I knew little about journalism. I didn’t work for my high school newspaper and had never interviewed anyone before. But I was already passionate about reporting at that point. And The Chronicle seemed liked the perfect place to start. I had no clue how to write a news story, but I would learn, as Nick Martin—then the sports editor—told me at an orientation freshman year.

I first started covering sports, thinking sports writing would be easier because I knew more about it. I began reporting on women’s soccer, women’s basketball and baseball among other teams. The repetition of writing gamers and previews gradually made me more comfortable with pushing out stories.

Of course, there were some rough experiences that freshman year. I’ll never forget my disastrous trip to Boston to cover a women’s basketball game against Boston College. The assignment was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I had never travelled to report on a road game before. The Chronicle also had a special agreement with the women’s basketball team that allowed our reporters to travel on the team’s private charter plane for away games.

To make a long story short, the trip saw me make a Duke player cry after a bitter loss and mispronounce the name of the team’s best player in a question to head coach Joanne P. McCallie. I also froze while writing my recap of the game, forcing Nick to essentially write the entire story himself after the final buzzer rang. You can think of it like failing an exam. Worse, it was a major blow to my pride.

But Nick calmly met with me afterwards and told me how I could improve. And so I kept writing and writing and ultimately became a sports managing editor my junior year.

Still, I’ll admit that I remained hesitant to completely commit to The Chronicle over those first three years. I could have done a lot more my junior year. I was instead focused on classes, grades and other obligations outside the paper.

But then I made the transition to covering news and became managing editor this year. I finally started spending 35+ hours per week working on the newspaper. And it’s been the best year I’ve had at Duke.

I’ve written about topics ranging from an NFL Hall of Famer’s thoughts on football brain injuries to students’ reactions to Hurricane Harvey to the absence of female managers in the men’s basketball program. 

I realized the importance of independent student newspapers while watching my teammates write marvelous watchdog stories about sexual harassment allegations against a former professor, diversity within Greek organizations, the mayhem of this year’s walk-up line and much more.

I’ve spent countless late nights in 301 Flowers, editing articles instead of doing homework; coordinating coverage of events with fellow editors and reporters; huddling with staff as we play “HQ”; and shooting the—should I say infamous—soccer ball into our little rickety wooden basketball hoop. (I really miss that soccer ball, Likhitha.)

I’ve also met some of my best friends at Duke.

Joining a Greek organization or other selective living group was never an option for me. That’s even after an academic advisor told me my freshman year it can be hard to have a social life at Duke if you aren’t in a Greek organization. It’s the reality for a school that supposedly prides itself on diversity and inclusion.

But my time with The Chronicle demonstrated that Greek life isn’t the only way. The Chronicle became my niche. It wasn’t just a full-time job that involved holding the University accountable for its decisions. It didn’t just make me decide that I want to do this journalism thing for the rest of my life.

The Chronicle was a part of my all-around Duke experience from the very beginning. Yes, it may have taken me a bit longer to completely commit to it. But I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Sam Turken is a Trinity senior. He served as managing editor of The Chronicle’s 113th volume this year and was a sports managing editor of its 112th. He would like to thank Likhitha, Kenrick, Vir, Frances, Bre, Shagun, Isabelle, Nathan, Lexi, Sarah, Adam and countless others for making his time at The Chronicle so special. A huge thank you also goes to those outside The Chronicle who have been his mentors along the way.