The Chronicle is one of two things at Duke I have stayed with since O-Week. I wanted to be a reporter to critically examine relevant issues on campus, profile the quirky interests of my peers and tell the stories of everyday members of our community. Being an editor was never on my agenda.
The editors of The Chronicle seemed so cool and confident, like they were in on one really big inside joke. Sitting in news meetings made me feel like I could pretend to be on the inside, knowing I was only on the outside peeking in. This metaphor even extends into the physical space, as the The Chronicle office has an alcove of iMacs and swivel chairs that, based on what I saw, were for editors only. I conceived an imaginary line that extended from the vending machine to the couch—and I thought if I could cross that line and sit in those swivel chairs one day, then I’d finally be inside on the joke.
I did eventually sit in one of those chairs, but my path there was unconventional. Instead of becoming a section or associate editor for news, I applied to be one of two editors for Towerview, a long-gone relic of our previous features section. Having no experience in editing, fact-checking, story-pitching or putting together a print paper, I took them all on (with the invaluable help of Hank!).
During that time, I felt everyone else had suddenly become part of the inner Chronicle circle, spending late nights together every week on editing shifts. I spent that year pretending as if I belonged in the banter with the other staffers but feeling like I was watching from the sidelines.
When it came time for applications again, I did not feel an urgent need to become an editor. I had always planned to be a reporter, so I confidently sent my application to Jake for the senior reporter position.
Soon after decisions were released, I was added into various Chronicle group chats and bombarded with text messages about training schedules and editing shifts—all of which I ignored because they were irrelevant to reporters. It wasn’t until I was called out in the group messages that I realized something was amiss.
I frantically searched for Jake’s announcement congratulating everyone on their new positions. I scanned the list and saw my name—with “senior editor” written next to it. I wasn’t even aware senior editor was a position. My brain slowly connected the dots: I accidentally applied to be senior editor instead of senior reporter. In my defense, they both start with the word “senior.”
Then, I had to make a decision. Should I apologize profusely and get out the group chats while I still can, or should I just go with it? I decided to just go with it.
Looking back at my application, I forgot to rank senior reporter as my first preference. This small mistake led to some of my most meaningful experiences at Duke. In the short time I was senior editor, I learned so much about myself, the University, and the responsibility of being part of something much bigger than yourself. I got to know some of the most dedicated, passionate, funny, and inspiring people I’ve met.
That being said, I never felt the same sense of community with The Chronicle as expressed by those who have written these senior columns before me. I never felt I knew the right things to say or ways to act. I never understood all the passing references or inside knowledge. I never knew my place to sit. I felt like a spectator to the experience I should be having.
However, I remember the first time going into the Chronicle office, crossing the imaginary line and taking my seat in the beaten-down swivel chair. There was never an inside joke, there was just knowing that you deserve to be there. It took one mistake, one person to believe I should be an editor, and one decision to understand that I did deserve to be there. I never want someone to forgo the chance to be part of the incredible experience that is The Chronicle because they lack a sense of belonging: This is me telling you that you deserve to be here.
Shannon is a Trinity senior who served as senior editor for V. 115 and diversity, equity, and inclusion coordinator for V. 116. She would like to thank Hank for teaching her everything about putting a section together, Bre for being the first person to make her feel part of The Chronicle, Nathan for his infinite wisdom, Stefanie for her dedication, Rose for always being able to put a smile on her face and Jake for his confident leadership.
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