Here’s a question I get asked a lot as editor-in-chief: “Why are you doing this to yourself?” This question usually comes up when I mention another 3 a.m. layout night, last-minute scramble for articles, heated email from an alum or dire financial situation. In those moments of a truly extraordinary blend of panic, exhaustion and drudgery, sometimes I really don’t know why I’m doing it. But what I do know is that, for me and for my co-editor-in-chief Nate Quigley ’19, the drive extends far beyond pure obligation or necessity.
There is something about this small, frustrating, exhausting, incredible, exhilarating paper that is mind-altering — that leads you to sacrifice your sleep, academics and free time for something greater than yourself. Working for The Student has simultaneously been one of the most stressful and joyful parts of my time at Amherst. It has taught me to work harder than I ever imagined I could, strengthened my conviction in the importance of local journalism and connected me to the Amherst community in ways I never would have otherwise.
Last week in his farewell letter, Nate eloquently outlined the importance of journalism at the national level, so I’ll keep my focus to The Student’s role on a more local level — the college community. As a sophomore, I joined the paper partially because I was interested in journalism, but also because I was looking for new ways to connect with a campus that, although I had gradually found my footing in as a first year, I still felt very ambivalent about. I had my friends, activities and social spaces — but I still didn’t quite feel like an Amherst College student, invested in the struggles, triumphs and experiences that we, as a shared community, go through. The Student taught me how to care.
As a news writer, I wrote stories covering topics ranging from speaker events to race and gender inequities in the athletics department to student protests against executive orders from President Donald Trump. In each of these experiences, I was struck by the diverse and passionate ways that students engage with the college community. As news editors, Shawna Chen ’20 and I would always ask ourselves: what are the most important things happening on campus? What are people excited or upset about? How are the structures and institutions of our community impacting the lives of students? Whose voices have historically been left out of this paper, and how can we change that? These are lofty questions that we surely fell short of answering completely, but I’d like to think that in the process of questioning we gained something valuable.
I make this point because I think that many readers imagine The Amherst Student as an amorphous, impersonal organization, whose work you don’t see until the final product pops up in buildings around campus or on your Facebook feed. But this could not be farther from reality — The Student is, in the truest sense, a student newspaper, created entirely for and by Amherst students. We are a group of 50+ writers, editors, designers and publishers, dedicated to covering and sharing the news, arts, sports and opinions of Amherst College students. The Student is a group made up of your friends and peers, writing about things that are important to them. So for anyone who looks at the paper and thinks to themselves that there’s something missing — a story, an angle, an opinion — don’t just shrug and put the paper down. Reach out and get involved; push for the change yourself. This paper is for you just as much as it is any other student, and it can only truly work if the students reading it are as engaged as the students writing it.
I can’t finish before first thanking some of the countless people who have made my time at The Student so incredible. Jingwen Zhang ’18, thank you for taking a chance on me first as a news editor and later as editor-in-chief — your mentorship and advice have been invaluable throughout the years. Nate, I quite literally could not have done it without you. Being able to rely on you these past two semesters has kept me going through the insanity, and at the end of it, I’m so proud of the achievements we’ve made. Shawna and Emma Swislow ’20, you two have the hearts and minds of true journalists — I am constantly inspired by you both. I know you will do amazing things as editors-in-chief and I’m so excited to see it happen. Finally, to the rest of the editorial staff who made tiring Tuesday nights in the office such an amazing experience: thank you, thank you, thank you.
Isabel Tessier ’19 Editor-in-Chief, The Amherst Student