On Oct. 23, 2020, I was eating lunch with my Chronicle mentor Anna Zolotor. While we got to know each other, I asked her what she enjoyed most about writing for The Chronicle. She responded with something along the lines of how The Chronicle was the only student organization she found where she truly felt that she was contributing to something far bigger than herself.
Throughout the past three years, I have replayed this conversation in my head over and over.
Last summer, mere weeks after Volume 118 began, I spent the afternoon sitting on the floor of 301 Flowers, looking through the old bound volumes in the office, and heard Anna’s voice echoing in the back of my head. I was not looking for any particular article, but as I flipped through each issue, I was struck with awe at the endless pages of Duke history published under The Chronicle's name.
Reading headlines and stories from issues published long before I was born and observing the striking similarities to the stories of this past volume put into perspective just how much each and every one of us is a small part of a much larger history.
This past week, as I prepared to write this column, I once again found myself sifting through columns written by previous editors, entrapped in the eloquence with which they described their time at The Chronicle. When I eventually ran out of columns to read, I found myself struggling to find something entirely unique to encapsulate my experience as news editor this past year.
And maybe that’s just it.
By virtue of being on Chronicle staff, we are all a small part of something bigger than ourselves. We chose to attend our first section meeting — probably for a large variety of reasons — and then made the conscious choice to stick around. We selflessly pour ourselves into a newspaper with roots deeper than the university we cover. We wake up every day and repeatedly decide to work together to tell the stories of this university and push both Duke and The Chronicle to become better versions of themselves.
I also feel obliged to share a few words about my history with The Chronicle.
I did not come to Duke knowing that I wanted to join the student newspaper or even that I wanted to explore what it meant to be a journalist. This was not necessarily ever a part of any (probably too detailed) plan or vision I had for my college experience. Then, during O-Week, I took a risk and attended a (zoom) informational session, then a sports meeting, and finally, a news meeting. And I kept coming back.
Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with this paper, the people I work with, the stories we write together and the impact we have on the Duke community.
My first news story was about Duke launching new programs in the Pratt School of Engineering and the School of Medicine. Then I wrote a whole lot of words about gerrymandering, voting by mail and students' experiences voting in the 2020 election. Between then and now, I have watched our University community protest, grieve, embrace change, push back against it, and experience quite a few fires. I also got to write some more about the midterm elections.
I have drafted, deleted and rewritten this column more times than I can count. As it turns out, it is really hard to find the perfect set of words to represent a year that was so many things all at once.
A year that pushed me, challenged me and forced me to grow far beyond my comfort zone. A year that gave me so many memories of late nights goofing off in the office instead of editing. A year of begging those on news staff to submit pitches on time. A year of keeping track of (one too many) spreadsheets, training and mentoring new writers and watching our staff excel at everything we asked of them. A year of keeping our campus community informed with every single story we published. A year that taught me a whole lot about leadership, journalism, this University and myself.
But the most important thing I learned was how beautiful it is to dedicate so much of yourself in service of a larger purpose.
Throughout my time in The Chronicle, I have watched three iterations of leadership band together for an identical common purpose: holding this institution accountable while keeping the Duke community informed through student journalism.
The work of student journalism is never done; it only changes hands again, again, and again. One-hundred-and-eighteen times to be exact.
It has been an honor and the privilege of my lifetime to serve as the news editor for Volume 118. Just as we turned the page a little over a year ago, it is time to once again turn the page to another chapter in the history of this perfectly imperfect paper.
As one of my professors said during his farewell at the end of the last class, “we are not at the end of history.” He’s right. People came before me. People will come after me.
I can only hope that one day — 30 years from now — a future news editor finds themselves sifting through the archives, stumbles across coverage from V.118, and feels at least half as proud as I do to be a part of The Chronicle.
Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior who served as news editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume. She would like to thank Milla Surjadi for entrusting her with this job and pushing her to be a stronger leader, writer, reporter, editor and person each and every day. She would also like to express gratitude to Katie Tan for being a steady leader and keeping her grounded all year. She offers a special shout-out to everyone who consistently submitted their pitches on time and another to staff who then sent their pitches to writers; y’all were the absolute best. She is forever indebted to Anna Zolotor for making her feel at home in The Chronicle, encouraging her to stick around and answering every one of her phone calls this year. Keep sending Kathryn your comments, questions, concerns and, most importantly, life updates.
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Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.