Caught in the Middle

The words ain’t that bad

Emily Bruzzo

We’ve come a long way since August, readers.

At the beginning of the semester I wrote a column — it was more like a desperate letter begging you for sympathy — asking for patience as my colleagues and I attempt to navigate this new path The Carolinian is on.

I said that a newspaper is a partnership between the community it serves and the staff that drinks too much coffee and doesn’t sleep in order to produce it. I also said a newspaper is what its readers make of it just as much as it is what its staff makes of it.

Besides the fact that I’m moved by the poetry and wisdom of my own words, I’m happy to report that I offered more than just a little pretentious rhetoric in that first column — you’ve proven me right, readers.

We’ve published some world-class typos over the last few months. We’ve mixed up bylines; we’ve paired headlines with the wrong stories; we’ve had to issue corrections due to fact errors. If the Guinness Book of World Records had an entry for most consecutive screw-ups in a single print edition of a newspaper, The Carolinian would surely be one of the top contenders for the prize.

Through it all, though, this community has continued to support its collegiate newspaper.

The print issues have flown off the racks each week, we’ve witnessed a dramatic uptick in web traffic on our website and the number of followers has more than doubled for each of our social media accounts.

I doubt my start-of-the-year column, riddled with all the angst of a new EIC terrified of being sued for printing something libelous, had much impact on you, readers. But you’ve certainly risen to my challenge — even if that wasn’t your intention.

You’ve sent me emails about stories you want covered, and you’ve asked me questions about the layout. You’ve talked with me about the sort of information you feel you need. You’ve criticized our op-ed pieces with which you find fault, and you’ve praised the ones that have resonated with you.

You’ve gotten excited about the artists we interview, the athletes we pick the brains of, the campus clubs and organizations we feature, and the faculty members we quote because we want our articles to consist of at least a little intellectual substance.

You’ve constantly humbled me, readers. Whenever I’ve convinced myself that I might as well just decide not to publish one week because no one would notice if there weren’t any papers on our racks, the Universe has snickered at my histrionics and put right in front of me community members from all walks of life who have found something in our newspaper that makes them keep coming back for more.

My favorite interaction with one of you, readers, has to be a moment I had about a month ago. The news was slow that week, stories were falling through left and right and there were some other issues too complicated and banal to waste space writing about.

I stopped by the food court in the EUC and was surprised to see a gentleman reading our newspaper who doesn’t fit the typical demographic of our readership.

Instead of a snarky, 20-something dressed in hipster garb, the customary beanie and oversized glasses in plain sight, this man was an AARP member dressed in old, paint-stained overalls with bifocals resting on his nose and boots older than me swallowing his feet.

It’s my custom to introduce myself to readers and ask if they’re enjoying what they’re reading.

I wasn’t in the mood this particular day — the newspaper did, after all, seem to be crashing before my very eyes — but I’m a neurotic mad woman, so I just couldn’t help myself.

I shook the man’s hand, and learned that he was here on campus doing some construction work. He would often pick up a copy of The Carolinian and read it while he took his lunch break.

After talking with him for a few minutes, I knew I just had to ask him the dreaded question:

“Are you enjoying the paper, sir?”

He stared at me for a moment, and then, without missing a beat, he said, “Whelp, there are words on the pages and the words ain’t that bad. Yeah, I’d say I’m enjoying the damn thing.”

This overalled man put it best, I think. Sometimes we’re going to produce a fine newspaper that looks like a work of art and is full of interesting stories that seem worthy of Pulitzer Prizes. Other weeks, we’re going to produce a crappy newspaper that looks like its just made it through a war and is full of half-assed stories that seem worthy of a National Enquirer award.

At the end of the day, though, “there are words on the pages and the words ain’t that bad.”

One could argue I’m selling this newspaper short and embracing mediocrity. I don’t think so, though. I’m embracing the reality of our situation. We’ve had a lot to work on fixing this semester. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved, but there’s still much to be done next semester — and the academic year after this one.

It’s not that I’m settling for mediocrity, readers — I’m welcoming evolution.

As I wrote in that first column: “Don’t put us down just because starting over is easy to confuse with falling behind.”

We’re getting there, readers. And I’m honored to say you’re joining us on this journey to wherever “there” is.

Categories: Caught in the Middle, Columns, Opinions, Uncategorized

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