“Get lost. Get lost in your classes, get lost in your extracurriculars. Just get lost, and sooner or later all the dots will connect.”

That was the advice that the alumni speaker gave to at least one-third of the Class of 2020—myself included—at Blue Devil Days three years ago. It stuck with me, immortalized in a cheesy Instagram post with a Chapel photo after I decided I was coming to Duke. 

I got lost the first time I was trying to find 301 Flowers—if you’ve ever tried to find our office, you know what I mean—but it took me about five minutes from walking through that door to know that The Chronicle was what I wanted to get lost in.

Earlier this month, I got to see the dots connect.

It was a little after 2 a.m. in mid-April and a group of Chronicle staffers was huddled next to the printing press at Triangle Web Printing, where the paper is printed two times per week. We watched as the printing staff loaded each metal proof into the press, as the ink flowed onto newsprint in bright hues. 

I couldn’t wipe the goofiest smile off my face or stop myself from saying multiple times, undoubtedly to the mild annoyance of my friends, how awesome this was. After a year of leading a student staff responsible for making the paper twice weekly, I felt a swelling sense of pride at watching the magical step of text boxes on a computer turning into ink on newsprint—although It felt slightly less magical when I nearly slept through a class presentation later that morning.

At the most basic level, student journalism matters because colleges need to be held accountable and people need information to make decisions about their lives. But it more than matters—it’s essential because there are stories that need to be told, moments that need to be seared into institutional memory and voices that need to be elevated. 

And while those are meaningful mores, they feel distant at 3 a.m. when school assignments are piling up, the layout for the next day’s print edition seems interminably unfittable and your paper straw has become a soggy stick in your iced coffee.

In those moments, it’s not the high ideals of the fourth estate that drive you. It’s the handful of others still in the office, studying or culling the paper for errors, that pushes you to get the thing done. That’s why this is not a love letter to the importance of student journalism or the office space located in 301 Flowers—although I challenge you to find a better spot on campus—but to the people who bring it and our paper to life. 

The Chronicle is more than the sum of its parts because it’s the product of hours of sometimes-thankless labor by students balancing their university lives with journalism. It’s about something bigger than any individual one of us, because it’s the proud product of all of us. 

When The Chronicle writes something, it reaches thousands of people in print and is offered up to our half-a-million monthly online viewers. We’re the first draft of this University’s history. With that comes power and deep responsibility. We don’t take it lightly. But why does it matter, and why do we pour hours of our lives during our time at Duke into this endeavor? 

We held the administration accountable when it told housekeepers they would have to re-bid for shifts. We told the stories of two women who said they were sexually harassed by a professor. We also followed our men’s basketball team to Maui and shared students’ favorite recipes.

I’ll always remember Managing Editor Ben Leonard—in a sweatshirt, in 90-degree weather—running to chase a guy riding a bike down Main Street because he thought the man had a lead on a story, in the single best and funniest exercise (literally) of relentless reporting I’ve ever seen. 

But I’ll also remember former Editor-In-Chief Likhitha Butchireddygari sprinting a circle around the office as we all cried, screamed and jumped after the men’s basketball team eked out another heart-stopping win in the NCAA tournament, and the countless Cookout milkshake runs that led to a spreadsheet ranking some of the top choices. 

We drove to Washington D.C. in the middle of the night to cover a Supreme Court case with ties to Duke research, and staff drove a few minutes from campus to test their luck at an escape room. 

The Chronicle is occasional frisbee on the quad before production shifts, and late nights to study for exams after editing stories. It’s dropping everything in the middle of the day for breaking news, and it’s a staffer’s mom mailing cross-stitches halfway across the country for us to hang in the office. 

It’s the best thing I’ve ever been a part of. 

Former Editor-in-Chief Alison Stuebe described being editor best in 1995: “Looking back, I doubt that anything else would have forced me to scrutinize so closely who I am and who I want to become. I guess that's what I came to college to learn.”

I’m so glad that, as a naive first-year, I stumbled into 301 Flowers. The students that pour their hearts into this paper have become family during the last three years, and I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything.

I hope everyone has the chance to get lost in something that gives you as much meaning and joy as The Chronicle has given to me this year. The dots, I promise, will connect.

Bre Bradham is a Trinity junior and was Editor-in-Chief of The Chronicle’s 114th Volume. She would like to thank Managing Editor Ben Leonard for being a constant source of good advice, and Sports Editor Michael Model for strong leadership. She would also like to thank Opinion Editor Frances Beroset for bringing kindness and patience to tough situations, and the team of News Editor Isabelle Doan and Senior Editors Nathan Luzum, Shagun Vashisth and Lexi Kadis for incredible news coverage all year. Thanks to Likhitha Butchireddygari and Claire Ballentine, for showing her what leadership looks like and how to run a paper. Finally, she would like to thank the staff of Vol. 114 for making 301 Flowers feel like home.