Editor’s Note: Front pages turned into friendship, family

By Megan Bennett, Editor-In-Chief

I was hiding under my blankets on my new,  wobbly dorm room bed when I called my mom two weeks into freshman year—on the verge of leaving Columbia.

I felt like a fraud. Without any high school journalism experience, it seemed like I was lightyears behind my peers and still wasn’t even sure what my career path should be.  Committing to Columbia on a whim because I thought I could try out journalism seemed so foolish, and all of a sudden, so did the idea of living in the city after coming from a small town. My twin-sized, leopard print comforter was not enough to rein in all of the crippling self-doubt and fear of failure.

It wasn’t much later that I discovered a classmate had started freelancing for The Chronicle—the main reason I chose this college—in the first weeks of her freshman year. In an attempt to curb this aforementioned anxiety—and probably out of a bit of jealousy—I got back in bed, under the same blankets, but this time forced myself to not get up until I pitched a story to the then-editor-in-chief.

My Front Page story from October 2013 is framed on my wall, along with my first journalism paycheck for a meager $25. I credit it with keeping me in school, studying what would become the greatest passion of my life. I also keep this first byline as a reminder of what journalism is at its core: doing what scares you.

I have a post-it on my desk with the quote, “The story is the boss.” While some coworkers don’t find this quote particularly profound, it keeps me from just doing the bare minimum. Nearly 150 bylines later, the stories and columns I am the most proud of are ones that were initially terrifying to tackle. Instead of letting fear get the best of me, journalism taught me to make it my key motivator.

After that first story, I became drawn to shedding light on issues that are not always discussed or are kept hidden. Over the last three years, sometimes doing four stories at once or struggling to put a 40-page newspaper together in just a few days’ time, the exhausting—sometimes thankless—work felt like more effort than it’s worth. Reminding myself that we are giving those stories a voice is what made it easier to keep pushing.

The Chronicle has helped me grow not only as a journalist but as a person. I have created lifelong friendships, fallen in love, gained a newfound confidence in myself and realized how much I long to help other reporters and editors reach their full potential. Watching my coworkers’ successes—whether their first front page story or receiving an unexpected award for their work—brought me a joy I could have never imagined, and even after I leave I will enjoy watching from afar. The most talented people I have ever met have come and gone from The Chronicle newsroom, and they’re now like a second family to me.

To Arabella Breck, Zoë Eitel and Lauren Kostiuk, your incomparable talent and tenacity are the lifeblood of this paper. Thank you for never letting me give up, and for being sisters to me even when we all wanted to scream at each other. I’ll miss watching dumb Vines, talking about “Shameless” and going on Cafecito runs.

To Chris Richert, I strive to one day be as generous as you are to everyone in your life. Not only do I credit all of my success to you, but The Chronicle would cease to exist without your dedication. Thank you. For everything.

To my first journalism professor and assistant faculty adviser Stephanie Goldberg, you have taught me so much during my college career from start to finish. If only I could stay and learn from you longer, but at least I’ll have your hilarious Facebook statuses to keep me company. To Len Strazewski, your tough-love approach has whipped my reporting and editing skills into shape, and I could never thank you enough for that.

As I enter the field, I don’t know if I’ll ever love a newsroom as much as this one, but I do know that its lessons will follow me wherever I go—whether it’s my next job or my last. Not only is it what kept me studying my craft here at school, but it is what will keep me striving to learn for the rest of my life.