Captain Ahab’s notes from the Pequod

By Kiyoshi Martinez

You know that journalists don’t make very much money, right?” my mom said to me when I told her that I was switching my major from materials science engineering to journalism.

When I made the switch, I did it because I couldn’t see being stuck in numbers, I saw things in stories. There is an important question that needs to be answered though:

What is journalism worth?

A few quarters or a few bucks on Sundays? Our time and attention? No, this is wrong.

It’s about the First Amendment, freedom and public advocacy; you can’t put money on that! No, also wrong.

Emotions of the reader, intentions of the writer? Nope, still missing it.

The fact is journalism is only worth what advertisers think it’s worth. Without them, game over. This is the only quantifiable value of journalism.

This fact will always undermine journalism. This specter threatens the acclaimed free press. Not the government, not language, not technology.

Despite this, I can’t help being drawn to this damned profession, like Ahab to his doom. Some of us are destined to chase a metaphorical white whale. Where some see profit, another sees the greatest adversary to be conquered.

But journeys aren’t made alone, and I’m grateful for the staff who stood with me the past semester. Those who wrote, shot photos, made graphics, designed pages, edited stories – all on deadline and tough hours. Their names are unknown to anyone who has never read the masthead on page two of every issue.

To those who made these sacrifices, for staying late and putting in the extra effort: Thank You. You did a hell of a job.

I want to wish the new staff this semester the best of luck and encourage them to keep doing what made working at the Daily Illini “worth it” for me.

In response to my mom’s question, I think I would now reply with this thought:

Superman might spend his life being a superhero, but Clark Kent pays the bills as a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet.

Kiyoshi Martinez is a senior in Communications and former editor in chief of the Daily Illini. He can be reached at [email protected]