Why I spent four years working on The News-Letter and what it feels like to leave

By DIVA PAREKH | September 19, 2019

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NEHA SANGANA / PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR

After leaving The News-Letter, Parekh reflects on the pride she feels for what she helped build.

Here at Hopkins, you can always find people ready to talk about the journey they took to find the clubs that are important to them. They’ll tell you how they walked around the Student Involvement Fair (SIF); became completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of clubs trying to recruit them; signed up for 50 different club mailing lists; followed up with five; and then finally found the two or three groups that were the most important to them.

Well, my story was a little like that. Walking around SIF as a first-semester freshman four years ago, I felt utterly lost. I had no interest in making my writing public — that thought was too scary to me, so I wasn’t even looking at any clubs in that category. I just happened to pass through that aisle, and an orange-haired guy frantically jumped in my path and shoved a copy of The News-Letter in my face. That guy, Will Anderson, would become Editor-in-Chief a year later. 

So, anyway, I signed up for the mailing list because I didn’t know how to say I wasn’t interested, and I didn’t give it another thought. But then I got an email from then-Copy Editor Sarah Stockman. 

“If you like grammar or just like to correct people’s mistakes, this is the job for you!” she wrote. 

I thought that was kind of interesting. I was too scared to write my own articles, but I could totally correct other people’s grammar. 

Skip forward a year, and I was Copy Editor, in Sarah’s old position. I was a little less scared then, having edited the paper myself, so I gave writing a shot. 

Skip forward another year, and I’d been writing my column, Copy Queen, for a year. I’d opened up about deeply personal experiences, because I trusted the paper implicitly. I’d found the confidence to bare my soul so incredibly publicly, something that I never thought I’d be capable of. 

Another year later, I was a junior, still writing my column, still Copy Editor, but also writing for pretty much every other section of the paper as well — most frequently News. 

On Feb. 13, I started working on interviewing survivors of sexual violence about their experiences with the University administration. On April 26, we published “On Their Own,” the culmination of three months of emotionally and mentally strenuous work. By May 3, in response to student and community outrage, the University had already hired another investigator in the office that handles complaints of discrimination and sexual violence.

By the time senior year began, I was a News & Features Editor. If you talk to anyone at The News-Letter, they’ll tell you that it’s one of the most time-consuming positions at the paper, in addition of course to Editor-in-Chief. 

I was constantly on my phone — scheduling interviews, helping my writers, mediating conflicts, searching for sources, emailing administrators and organizing meetings. On Wednesday nights, when The N-L is in production, I’d stay up till 4 or 5 a.m. working on the paper and then come back home and start my problem set that was due that Thursday morning.

On Thursdays, when I should have been recovering, I’d spend all my time preparing for the upcoming week and fixing any mistakes we had made out of sheer exhaustion in the issue we just published. Even scrolling through social media, I wasn’t doing the normal thing and letting my brain mindlessly recharge with dog pictures. 

Instead, I was looking at my Twitter feed for potential sources who I might be able to interview in the future, looking at Facebook for potential events that might be good to cover. 

That position was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done. But still, I don’t regret it. I don’t regret meeting all the people I met who were so passionate about so many different things. I don’t regret doing everything I can to make people’s voices heard. I don’t regret putting the time in to help writers improve. I don’t regret any of it.

And then all of a sudden, it was April 25, 2019. My last issue was out and in the world. I wasn’t a News-Letter editor anymore. That’s something that people don’t really talk about — what happens after. You spend four years pouring your time and your energy into something, and then one day you wake up and it’s just over, just like that. And you can still remember what it felt like to be handed a copy of the paper all those years ago, with no idea what was waiting for you. 

But that’s college, that’s just how it is. People take what they’ve learned and four years later, they move on. It’s a little different for me, though, because I’m still here — seeing the paper come out and knowing for the first time that I wasn’t in the room making it happen.

And it took a few months for me to get to this place, but finally, I’m okay with that. 

I have time to breathe now. I have time to cook, to clean, to take care of my health, to go to the gym, to do all the things that a “real person” is supposed to do. 

For the first time in years, I’m excited about my classes instead of dreading them — because for the first time in years, I actually have the time to put in the work and understand what’s actually going on in class. And I hope with every fiber of my being that this brings me closer to realizing what I truly want to do with the next phase of my life.

But when I see current N-L editors out and about, interviewing someone at Bird-in-Hand, rushing around distributing papers, talking frantically into a phone about the newest problem, I feel a little pang. And until now, I never realized what that feeling was. 

It’s knowing that the people I saw when I was the one doing the recruiting at SIF, the people who I jumped in front of holding the newest copy of the paper, the people who I spent years training and working with, they’re the ones in charge now. And when I see the newspapers in their stacks, I get this weird warm, fuzzy feeling inside me. 

It’s knowing that during my four years, I helped build something. And it’s pride, knowing that they’re going to build something too.

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