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What I learned from a year holed up in 301 Flowers

editor's note

It’s a tale of three LDOCs.

On the last day of classes my first year, I got a text from Likhitha Butchireddygari, the outgoing editor-in-chief of The Chronicle, to come hang out in the office. I left the LDOC concert before Quinn XCII came onstage to go schmooze in 301 Flowers for an hour or so. I ended up staying much, much longer, but one conversation stands out crystal clear. Likhitha told me I should run for editor-in-chief that next year. An idea was planted in my head that I could never quite shake.

On LDOC my sophomore year, I officially became Volume 115’s editor-in-chief… and I was terrified. Terrified that I’d spend so much time in the office that I’d never see my friends, that I’d ruin the Chronicle, that I was in over my head. I avoided 301 Flowers all day except for late that night, with everyone else at Shooters, when I published the first article of V. 115.

And on this past LDOC, I sat in my house, watching Two Friends perform and drinking a homemade frozen mojito to celebrate the end of my tenure. I sent and received sentimental texts all day, proof that the fears I had during the prior LDOC didn’t play out. It was a year full of long nights, stressful decisions and bulging inboxes. It was the best year of my life.

If we had been on campus for LDOC, I would have probably been a bit too preoccupied to do a lot of reflecting on the year that was. But since I had nothing but time, I put together a shortlist of some things I learned from my experience as editor-in-chief of this beautiful news organization. That’s right: this is a listicle. It’s 2020! Anything goes.

  1. I’m not very good—borderline bad—at graphic design. I know nothing about fonts or color schemes or design. Yet for some reason, I got to lay out the front pages of our newspaper twice a week. I do think I improved throughout the year, however, and I definitely designed some A+ front pages (like this or this or this or especially this).
  2. I am a lot better than I thought at writing satire. Or at least, I think I am. I wrote a couple articles for this year’s Chomicle and I guest-wrote an edition of our Dirt newsletter, which were definitely two highlights of life in quarantine.
  3. It’s so important to come to meetings prepared! Especially when you’re leading them. I learned that lesson the hard way more than once.
  4. People really don’t know how the Chronicle works. I don’t blame them—we could be doing a much better job at explaining ourselves. Let me do a brief explainer while I have your attention.
    1. The Chronicle is an independent news organization, meaning we don’t take any money from Duke. We make money from ads, donations and investments. We rent our office from Duke on a long-term contract.
    2. As an independent organization, we can write about whatever we want to. Nobody at Duke reviews anything we publish. 
    3. The editor-in-chief is responsible for all editorial content. Our general manager, a full-time adult, runs our business office. They both report to a Board of Directors made up of Chronicle alumni and recently graduated editors. 
  5. You’re still reading! Thanks for not getting distracted by your beeping oven telling you your amateur bread is ready for you to take one bite of and throw away.
  6. Sorry, that was mean. I’m sure your bread will turn out really tasty. Please keep reading.
  7. Ok, enough with the distractions. What was the next thing I learned from this year?
  8. I learned to love the distractions in 301 Flowers. Five days a week, I spent my afternoons and evenings holed away in the office with other people on staff. Everyone would get super burned out if we didn’t distract each other constantly. We watched Jeopardy, played baseball with an old frat paddle, went on late-night Krafthouse runs, talked about politics and TV shows, to mention a few. If it weren’t for the people that make The Chronicle so enjoyable, I don’t know how I could’ve survived this past year.
  9. The talent, tenaciousness and enthusiasm of our reporters and editors cannot be overstated. Everyone thinks they can be a journalist, but it’s no easy feat. Watching people grow as journalists, thinkers and innovators this year has brought me such joy. When Duke shut down due to coronavirus (yes, I’m finally mentioning the elephant in the column), it absolutely warmed my heart to see how eager our reporters and writers were to hold administrators accountable and share uplifting stories.
  10. Finally, this year taught me how important student journalism is for cutting through the bullsh*t. It astonished me how much PR bullsh*t there is at Duke. If I had a dollar for every canned statement chock-full of meaningless buzzwords I got from somebody at Duke, I could maybe afford a couple of Duke parking tickets. Plus, everyone expects us to act like their personal PR agency and make them look good. A significant speaker almost pulled out of a speaking event this past year because of an article she was mentioned in that her team didn’t approve beforehand. Everyone, from administrators to faculty to even students, wants to control the narrative. Student journalism is here to tell it as it is, to the best of our ability.

Look, I get it. We’re student journalists, not professionals. Thanks to the internet, everything lives forever online, which means people want to look as bland and measured as possible so nothing can bite them in the ass. On top of that, there’s a growing distrust of mainstream media that can be felt even at Duke. We aren’t perfect, and no one knows that more than us. We spent much of this past year analyzing our many weaknesses and putting together plans to remedy them. All we ask is that you give us a chance.

In conclusion, I would like to thank you, our audience. Whether you read one article or 100, thank you for tuning into our coverage of Duke University. It’s because of you that I was able to enjoy a year that I’ll never forget. As sad as I’ll be, I can’t wait to spend my senior year LDOC holed up in 301 Flowers, the best place on campus.

Jake Satisky is a Trinity junior and the editor-in-chief of the Chronicle’s 115th volume. He has too many people to thank, but he would especially like to express his gratitude to managing editor Nathan Luzum and news editor Stefanie Pousoulides for their sacrifice and consistently great advice throughout the year. He would also like to recognize V. 114 editor-in-chief Bre Bradham for being a role model and answering his countless questions. Thank you to everyone who made this year in 301 Flowers so special.

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