Editor-in-chief Darshan Patel bittersweet, ready to step down

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Editor-in-chief Darshan Patel bittersweet, ready to step down

At the end of their four years, seniors are often asked: “So, what are you doing next?”

Recently, it’s been a different question directed my way: “How does it feel?” How does it feel to be almost done?

By the end of Friday, I’ll no longer be the editor-in-chief of The Daily Illini.

When friends ask me how it feels to be done, I react similarly to seniors giving an impromptu answer to the post-graduation question. I stare off into the distance, trying desperately to collect my thoughts, before giving a broken response that usually starts with “Uhh…”

I take a deep breath.

It will be bittersweet, I take a guess, usually in a soft voice, making eye contact.

This has been one of the most rewarding experiences I will have in my life, yet also one of the most demanding. It’s helped open up many doors to my future, no matter whether I work at a newspaper or television station.

Over the past year, often via trial and error, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t when leading a news organization. I’ve learned what people want to read about and even what people don’t, what does well on the newsstands or on our website.

I’ve learned that it’s OK to make a mistake, or not to have a definitive answer.

But more importantly, I’ve picked up managerial skills – and I’m still learning – in a position I never thought I’d be in when walking into the building my freshman year as a news reporter.

Although I’m leaving the position content with what this opportunity has afforded me, nothing makes me more proud to be the editor than when my staff is proud of what they’ve accomplished.

Take, for example, our coverage of the Suburban Express lawsuits when our reporter took chunks of hours from her day to swift through hundreds of court records, or the Basketball Showcase, arguably our sports staff’s proudest work. 

Or when our design and copy staffs doubled their efforts the day when former editor-in-chief Roger Ebert passed away.

These have been just a few highlights of the past year — ones, for me, that can’t easily be replaced with anything I’ve accomplished during my four-year stretch at the DI.

Every day, I walk into the office, sift through a stack to find a crisp, clean copy of that day’s paper and stash it away, most recently in a bin underneath my desk.

Next week or even next year, they’ll turn into keepsakes, papers I’ll look back on and sometimes bite my tongue asking myself, “What if?” Other times, I’ll smile, reminiscing about such an extraordinary experience.

Years from now, the newspapers may yellow, or the print may fade into whiteness, but the memories, the moments, will remain clear forever.

But with almost any position, it has its ebbs and flows.

And for me, after I’m done, I’ll have a reassuring feeling, one I know is more powerful than what I ever would have felt as the editor-in-chief of the DI.

As an underclassman, it was my assistant news editor and then news editor who I looked up to, who I turned to when I wasn’t sure or when I didn’t know something. There’s no easy way to describe this, but it’s so reassuring, and so warming, to soon have that feeling back when I’ll have a boss. That sense of security is irreplaceable.

I might not be sure of too many things right now: I don’t know how it will feel to no longer be in a leadership position of this nature. But I know one thing: This paper is now in as good of hands as it has been in its 140-plus year history.

Darshan is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @drshnpatel.