The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

DI Voices | Growing from discomfort … reflections

Raphael Ranola

The title of this “Perspectives” column is an homage to Roger Ebert, late editor-in-chief of The Daily Illini and renowned columnist, whose final column for The DI was titled “And in the end: Ars Gratia … Reflections.” Ebert’s writing voice is referred to as “Midwestern,” and in all of my writing I hope to convey the same kind of kindly, conversational tone — a privilege afforded to me as a columnist and not a reporter.

I wrote a “Perspectives” column titled “Growing from discomfort at the beginning of my longer-than-average tenure as opinions editor of The DI about being a timid freshman and somehow being thrust into an editorial position. It’s been about a year since then. You can imagine how much I’ve changed within a year.

“Ars Gratia” was what Ebert’s column in The DI was called. It’s Latin for “art for art’s sake.” Fitting, as he was an avid film critic — his first-ever column was a critique of “The Parent Trap.” Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism in 1975 and was the first to do so. 

It’s the phrase “ars gratia” that reminds me that writing effective columns and opining about the issues that matter is a skillful art.

As the late, great Ebert reflects on turnover and the annual transfer of power within The DI, so will I. At the time of writing, The DI will no longer have an opinions editor. It’s strange to think that this role will die with me. So it goes. 

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I’ve resigned myself to the idea that the death of the opinions editor role is just a realignment of what it means to be a columnist for The DI — a change that I hope will be a positive one. There are a myriad of issues that plague the University, and it would do us well to put a finger to the pulse of them. 

The idea is that most, if not every, column is effective, hard-hitting and articulates something relevant and important to the campus community through a quality-over-quantity mentality.

In other words, no fluff pieces about Adventure Time. But you should read that one anyway if you happen to like Buddhism and cartoon shows.

In the past, being a columnist for The DI came with some level of prestige. There were only a handful of them, whose views, political and otherwise, were largely known and widely read across campus. Maybe we’ll get that back someday. Maybe it’ll happen within my lifetime.

That is one of many of the dramatic restructuring changes that will take place throughout the rest of the semester — it’ll be a different paper. I’m excited to see how it will grow within the rest of my time at the University. Expect another “Perspectives” column upon my graduation.

So where does that leave me, as the last of a long line of opinions editors? As I wrote just one year ago, “I am excited about the way in which this role will change me for the better.” Has it? 

Yes. Obviously.

The document I had been given, titled “Everything You Need to Know to Reign Over the Land of Opinions” had Lucas Oswald, 2019-2020 opinions editor, imparting a stark outlook on what being opinions editor might look like. “Welcome to Hell,” he said. “If you do this right, you’re gonna come out of this with a ton of friends and memories. If you do this wrong, you will hate your life. If this sounds like something that doesn’t appeal to you, quit. Bye Felicia!”

I was terrified at first. But after an ICPA first-place plaque for editorial writing, countless editorial meetings and reading dozens of columns, it’s safe to say that I loved it — for the most part.

It’s a tremendous honor to be an editor. Particularly unique to being an opinions editor is the opportunity to be a mentor and have a very hands-on approach to the growth of your columnists. Opinion precedent is to conduct in-person edits with the columnists under your supervision to improve upon the tone, style and strength of arguments. The New Yorker does it, The DI alum Dave Eggers told me, and for opinion columns, it just makes sense.

In an age of online schooling and the ability to make comments on Google Docs, there’s a certain charm of in-person edits and seeing your columnists’ writing progress in tandem with the boldness of their opinions.

Nathaniel Langley, 2020-2021 opinions editor, mentioned in the opinion guide that “the heart of opinions has been and will always be the wonderful columnists sharing their voices.” This past cohort of opinions columnists that I hired last semester is a good one, whose rhetorical capabilities impress me every time.

I’m grateful to have been allowed to raise these folks up and to develop strong ties with them, my fellow editors and my wonderful assistants, Aaron Anastos and Megan Harding, both sophomores in Media. It’s why I spend so much time in this damn basement.

If anybody is going to bring back the age where being an opinions columnist was prestigious and important, it’ll be this particular group of columnists. And I’ll be happy to lead the charge.


Raphael is a sophomore in LAS.

[email protected]

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About the Contributor
Raphael Ranola
Raphael Ranola, Columnist
Hi there! I’m Raphael, columnist and former opinions editor (2023-2024) of The Daily Illini. I’m majoring in econometrics and quantitative economics, and though I have no aspirations to continue with journalism outside of the opinions section of The DI, I’d love to write some op-eds later in my career. I gained a fondness for writing staff editorials after being my high school newspaper’s editor-in-chief, prompting me to join opinions in September 2022. From there, I became the opinions editor in late January 2023; my term ended in March 2024. I try to write about campus issues and columns about economics when I can. I can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, concerns or want to talk about the sorry state of the Star Wars franchise.
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