I’ll never forget the first time I ever saw the Collegiate Times newsroom.
Being a freshman at Virginia Tech can undoubtedly be intimidating at first before you find your place among all of the other people clad in maroon and orange. On a mission to find my place, I walked past the newsroom one evening early in the fall of 2015 after attending an interest meeting for another organization. As I looked into the newsroom, I was instantly hooked. The energy that was pulsing throughout the room was invigorating, and I could tell from a quick glance that important work was happening there. I had to become part of it.
I came to Tech without absolutely any experience in journalism or any plans to become involved with the student newspaper. After trying out a section meeting, my friend Jessica Brady (who is now the outgoing editor in chief) got in touch with Melissa, who was copy editor at the time, and we began learning how to edit stories.
A month or two later, and we were settling in as assistant copy editors. No one knew either my name or Jessica’s name for months, but once people beyond Melissa began to address us by name, it started to feel like home. Which leads me to my first piece of advice: Always learn people’s names.
As I continued going to production (which is when we make the paper), I learned more and more about copy editing and how newspapers function, and attribute so much of what I know now to the people who took the time to teach me everything. One of my absolute favorite things about the Collegiate Times is that you can join without essentially any experience, and if you work hard and have good mentors, you can grow so much.
Lewis Millholland, who was news editor at the time and eventually became managing editor, especially cared about mentoring people in the newsroom, and I can thank him for being one of the most influential mentors I’ve ever had. Which brings me to my next piece of advice: If you know stuff, teach it to other people. If you don’t know stuff, ask knowledgeable people to teach it to you.
As people began to get to know Jessica and me more in the newsroom and learned our names, we started getting invited to some of the CT’s social gatherings, where we eventually became good friends with other editors. So here’s another piece of advice: If your organization has social events, go to them. If your organization doesn’t have social events, you should organize some. Bonding with your team is not only essential for feeling like a part of the organization but also for succeeding as a team.
Over the years, I got to play roles beyond assistant copy editor including copy editor, managing editor and social media editor. But I know that I never could have been capable of succeeding in any of the roles without learning people’s names, having good mentors and mentoring others, and bonding with my coworkers outside of the office.
Now that I’ve shared some advice that absolutely no one asked for, I want to thank some of the people at the Collegiate Times who taught me important lessons over the years, in the hopes that maybe some of these lessons can help you, the reader, too.
Jessica Brady taught me that if you try, you can truly make the best out of any situation — and even face better outcomes than you ever anticipated. She also taught me that fostering a fun work environment is not only a good time but also a powerful way to produce great work.
Melissa Fairfax taught me the beast that is AP style and the importance of making the newsroom a place for everyone.
Zack Wajsgras taught me how to defend my decisions, which is an exceptionally important skill in both the CT newsroom and the real world.
Andrea Pappas taught me that quieter leadership is oftentimes more effective.
Matt Jones taught me some important skills, but perhaps the single most important was how to download Google fonts and upload them to Microsoft. My resume has looked so much better since.
Lewis Millholland also taught me a lot, but most of all, he taught me that someone is always checking your work after you, so you should really try to not make any mistakes.
Sam Smith and Katelyn Meade taught me the importance of being a sister to the other ladies in the newsroom. Izzy Rossi and Emily Hannah later carried this on, and the newsroom is better because of it.
Sajanee Chithranjan taught me the value of investing your time in cross-disciplinary work.
John Battiston taught me that taking an extra minute to be kind is always worth it.
Anna Davis taught me to seek the hidden creativity that exists in every job.
And Ashley Long, the incoming editor in chief, taught me that being 100% committed to all that you do is the quickest, most sure-fire way to succeed. Ashley, you’re going to do an amazing job next year with Izzy and Emily.
So many other people have taught me so much over the years, and looking back at my time at the Collegiate Times, I can’t believe that such a formative part of my life was dependent on the mere fact that I happened to walk past the newsroom during production.
Which brings me to one last piece of unsolicited advice: embrace serendipity. Stumbling upon the Collegiate Times that warm August evening is without a doubt one of the best things that has ever happened to me.