Reflecting on my time at the Daily Illini
March 16, 2017
As I finish my tenure at The Daily Illini, I’ve been thinking a lot about the firsts: my first day as sports editor, my first meeting in charge, my first day covering football, my first day at The Daily Illini.
And while I’ll have plenty more firsts in my life, and hopefully more in other newsrooms, it’s hard to say goodbye to this place.
The newsroom has become a second home to me, a place that I spent more hours in than perhaps any other on campus, first as a sports reporter, then as a copy and night editor and now finally as sports editor.
From hearing the Cubs World Series victory chants coming in the windows on a warm November night to processing the dumpster fire that was 2016 to election night pizza to Super Bowl Sunday potlucks, the newsroom has been a joyous place filled with laughter — so much laughter and so many friendships.
But it’s also a place where I broke down crying in the bathroom one Valentine’s Day (cliché, I know) with a broken heart.
It’s where on the morning of 2015’s Homecoming game, a group of us sat trying to do a radio show, struggling to process the death of friend and coworker Brett Lerner who died hours earlier in a car accident.
The Daily Illini is where I learned about life and journalism, usually in that order.
The people I’ve met are people I will be friends with the rest of my life, one whose passion for journalism is exemplified in the late nights we spend doing what we love.
We’re a family. A sports staff family, an editor family, however you look at it — a family.
The day of Brett’s funeral, I had an exam and couldn’t go, but I was in the newsroom that night. When the car who went got back and after doing their Illini Drive radio show, we went to a bar.
It was my 21st birthday and it was the strangest contradiction — celebrating both life and a life well lived. For Brett, The Daily Illini was a place where he grew professionally and I imagine, personally as well, like I did.
And it’s crazy and sad, but sitting there in our shock as we still tried to figure out why, I realized these are the people who I’ll be spending the rest of my life with. These are the people I’ll be drinking beers with, laughing about the silly things we did and said. Forever remembering back and looking out for each other going forward.
From a shy high schooler who struggled to speak in front of the class to someone who can now confidently speak at press conferences and ask questions to the biggest names in sports, I changed a lot.
I walked in the first day, unsure of what to expect, only knowing I wanted to write at this paper.
I was in a sports journalism class, loved watching sports with my dad and figured why not write in this section. That was my reasoning and how I picked what I ended up doing the next four years.
A little crazy to think it was a pretty on the whim decision.
I went from covering my first club sports practice, talking to students about cricket in the fall to covering softball in the spring. Then my editor called me over the summer asking if I’d want to cover football, and I covered the team for two tumultuous seasons before taking on the role of sports editor.
I’ve covered six hirings and firings within the two major sports and the administration, living most of the 2015-2016 school year in fear of an 8 a.m. email announcing the next one to be dismissed.
I’m pretty sure there are not many other student journalists who can list that as their college paper legacy.
Now I’m that person who hires younger students, giving them the opportunity I so desperately craved.
At least I am until Friday at 5 p.m.
Then it will be Cole Henke’s turn, for his first days at sports editor, and it’s the other reporters chance to find friendships and their place at the paper.
And it’s my turn to try other firsts.
But I’ll forever be grateful for the place that gave me one of my most important firsts, and for that I thank you.
Charlotte is a senior in Media.