“The newspaper arrives at our front door and becomes part of the archive of human knowledge,” reads the paper mache sign the new Editor-in-Chief nails into my old, stained wall. “And then, it wraps fish.”
Another year means another Editor-in-Chief has entered through my door that doesn’t quite close all the way. She’ll learn that nothing here really does—not the door, not the drawers, not the work day.
It will take her a week to clean out the piles of paper in my dusty corners, a month to train and organize the new staff (and herself), a few months to actually know how to do what she’s been pretending to know how to do and a full year to actually feel confident in it.
By then, we’ll have gone through the death of a succulent to learn that only a fake one can survive down here. We’ll grow a collection of handmade knick knacks—gifted after the hard days by the sweet boy whose title I am confused by. Sports Writer? Last Minute Photographer? He’ll go by Unofficial Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief if you ask him. Whatever he is, we’re very thankful for him.
She and a small, hyper-caffeinated girl will direct harmonized screams and rants at my anything-but-sound-proof walls. Some days will be happy—full of writing and creative brainstorming among the editors.
Other days will look a lot like that meme of the dog sitting in the middle of a burning house, sipping coffee and saying, “This is fine.” Yeah, I might be an office, but I know memes. That hyper-caffeinated girl talks a whole lot about them and puts them on my walls to make the Editor-in-Chief laugh amidst the fire.
We’ll go through the process together 10 more times. The process where every print story gets edited and doctored at least eight times, and every page gets carefully sifted through and designed by the sassy design editor and his team. The process where, as the clock strikes midnight, several editors tiredly crowd around a screen, desperately trying to craft a pun or oxymoron that fits—just landing more quotes on the Board of Shame in the process.
Story meeting, writing, researching, training, editing, photographing, designing, digitally promoting, problem solving, uploading, shoving it in people’s hands. And through it all, Dr. Linda Royall will come to the defense of The Oracle and the students’ education every single time.
In between all that, the team will cover concerts, start a podcast and amateur the art of writing satire. With the help of the brilliant Digital Media Editor, The Oracle online will meet professional videography, experiment with new forms of marketing and grow the social media from zero to award-winning.
Cicely won’t tell you, because she’s not an emotional goodbye person, but when she has to graduate, she’ll miss me. She’ll leave through my shaky door a far more confident writer, leader and editor having known and worked with some of the most gritty, talented, hilarious people.
Since 1966, I’ve known dozens of leaders within my walls, way too many versions of The Oracle logo and stories that caused storms of praise (or anger). At times, I’ve almost gone down with the paper completely. But here we stand, stronger than ever—collecting stacks on stacks of newspapers, now part of the archive of human knowledge.
Then, at the end of the day, that same newspaper will wrap fish. All its creators graduate or move on. And then they realize that all the blood, sweat and tears weren’t all they stressed it to be. What is important was who they left as—archivers of human knowledge and intellectually-stimulated, feisty writers.
Soon, a new Editor-in-Chief will walk through my broken door and nail something else into my Swiss cheese walls, and we’ll do it all over again—in whatever form that may be.