The independent news organization of Duke University

Precedented

“Unprecedented times.”

We’ve seen that phrase a lot this year—in emails from professors, on the news, in conversations with friends. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve heard it a time too many. It’s a constant reminder that my last time of normalcy was hopping on a plane home for spring break as a first-year. Flash forward to now, and I’ll sign this editor's note as a Pratt junior. 

I can confidently say that much has changed over the last year, both for me and in my communities. But there’s one thing that has never wavered, and that’s The Chronicle.

Throughout the summer, we covered various plans for the 2020-21 year as information about the fall semester continued to unravel. We highlighted the voices of international students after new policies threatened to revoke their visa statuses and of DACA students who looked anxiously at their futures. We covered local protests against racism and police brutality and showed how student groups stepped up to join the fight.

We documented the journey of COVID-19 on campus. While we were fortunate enough to have a successful fall semester due to a strong surveillance testing program, the spring featured grim COVID-19 numbers that forced us to shelter-in-place for a week, which Duke attributed to off-campus fraternity rush events.

Speaking of, we followed the creation of the Durham Interfraternity Council in the spring, as nine of Duke’s fraternities disaffiliated from the University. We also were there to cover the housing and rush policies that they say caused them to break with Duke, as well as the movement to abolish Greek life at the University altogether.

Because this year wasn’t hectic enough, we were also there to tell the story of the 2020 election cycle. We shared live updates from the community as results remained unclear and covered students’ reactions—including dancing in the Durham streets—when Joe Biden was announced victorious.

And while Duke held us to a high standard with the Duke Compact during the school year, we held them accountable as well. We pressed administrators about dropping the ball in Duke’s implementation of new Title IX policies. After a racist incident in Brown dorm, we talked to students about their disappointment with how administrators handled it. After an insensitive email from Sanford, we spoke to students who were “disappointed but not surprised.”

We also got to speak to administrators directly about their thoughts, including two Q&As with President Vincent Price and a sit-down chat with Daniel Ennis, Duke’s new executive vice president.

We’re not only here to tell University stories. We saw how groups came together to protect Durham tenants from eviction. We checked in on local restaurants and other small businesses as the pandemic raged on. We captured the fear of students on the West Coast as wildfires turned the skies orange and as the COVID-19 situation in India turned dire during a second wave. 

The news cycle was chaotic this year, but we always still find time to have fun in The Chronicle. You’ll certainly almost always find something on the TV, whether it’s Jeopardy or a sports game. We get Cookout milkshakes and try to set the record for the longest office ping pong rally. If you’re in news, you’ll infiltrate the sports hall to play HORSE on their basketball net, and if you’re in sports, you’ll invade the news hall to steal snacks.

You also don’t need any prior experience to join us, and except for the opinion section, none of the sections require an application.

Our sports department covers the highs and lows of all 27 Blue Devil teams in the NCAA. We triumphed as teams such as women’s golf, softball and men’s lacrosse made impressive tournament runs and reflected on a disappointing men’s basketball season that didn’t earn us a spot in March Madness. But our sports writers do more than just cover games: they follow athletes as they make impacts in their communities, including standing up for racial justice. You may even get to talk to Jay Bilas, like our writers did as they made a fantasy draft with every Duke men’s basketball player ever.

The opinion section allows you to start and contribute to conversations in the community. The sky's the limit: you can tell personal stories, share your takes on issues that matter to you or even write about trees. Have a knack for humor? Apply to be Monday Monday, our anonymous satire columnist. You can also join the Community Editorial Board, where you’ll work with other students to shape campus discourse and reflect on relevant happenings. Even if you don’t want to regularly contribute to the opinion section, you or your organization can still submit guest columns or letters to the editor.

Have you watched—or not watched—a cool show or movie lately? Raving about a new album? Missing Y2K fashion trends? Maybe you just had the best scoop of ice cream you could ever imagine. Consider writing for Recess, our arts & culture section. With its three sections—campus, local and culture—you can dive into the arts however you want, from covering groups on campus to reviewing the biggest Blockbuster movies. 

A picture is worth 1,000 words. Even if you’re not interested in writing, consider joining our photography department. You can help craft photo essays and visually tell stories about the community. Our photographers got to capture John Legend at the Commencement ceremony, Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally and failed bench burning efforts. (And psst, want to get into basketball games? You can by photographing them.) If you’d rather use a stylus than a camera, you can also join our graphics department and create colorful visuals to make stories pop or try your hand at Photoshop.

We’re a digital-first media organization, so even if photos or graphics aren’t your thing, how about videos, podcasts or social media? Film a video profile of a Duke Student Government president candidate. Grab a friend, sit down and talk about basketball, the environment or life through the window of a C1 bus. Help us curate meaningful and fun content on Instagram, or hey, even help us start a TikTok.

What if you can’t pick just one section? Luckily, you don’t need to. Snap some photos while writing about campus news that matters to you. Drop in to review that awesome movie you watched after you finished covering a men’s lacrosse game. Your Chronicle experience is what you make of it.

As I mentioned earlier, The Chronicle has been there for me since I came to Duke. It’s given me a place to write stories, talk to campus icons, uplift voices and dive into issues that matter to me. The role it has played in my life and the love for the people I do it with has never changed—in fact, it’s only grown. And while The Chronicle is a constant for me, there’s one defining feature of it that won’t be the same as it was in March 2020.

You may have seen my column about how we will no longer be producing a regular print product. While we’ll still have some special editions, such as our back to school, rivalry week and graduation issues, you won’t be able to find a new paper on the shelves in the Bryan Center or in your dorm each week. (Check out my column on our website for a deeper dive into this decision and how we plan to go forward. And my sappy musings.)

I’m confident in my decision but nervous for this change. But like Volume 116 Editor-in-Chief Matthew Griffin wrote last year, we’re not going anywhere. When I ran for editor-in-chief, I made a promise to uplift voices that want to be heard. To curate content that makes a difference. To cover happenings in Durham and better understand the role Duke plays in our community. To celebrate Duke’s successes but also stand up to her when I know she can do better. I promised to not settle, and by not having a regular print paper, we’ll have the time and resources to raise the bar even higher. 

In 2020, we titled our send-home paper Resilient, and we were right. Sure, times are unprecedented, but the ability of the Duke community to adapt, to graduate, to triumph, to come together, to be resilient, no matter the circumstances—that is precedented.

And print or no print, together in the 301 Flowers office or scattered across the globe, March Madness or NIT, we’ll be there for it all.

Leah Boyd is a Pratt junior and editor-in-chief of The Chronicle’s 117th volume. 

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