The very first class I took here at Mills was Journalism I with Meredith May. I remember walking in to a warm stuffy white room on the third floor of Mills Hall in the Fall of 2008 and sitting down at a long table with 12 other nervous faces all trying to casually avoid overt eye contact in that awkward waiting-for-the-professor-moment that always happens on the first day of any class. What I didn’t know then is that many of those nervous averted faces would become some of my best friends here at Mills.
I remember that first day going over the syllabus and thinking I must drop this class immediately. This professor expected me to cold call city council members, to approach strangers on the street, to drive to police stations and ask them questions. The whole idea was terrifying.
I had signed up for journalism on a hunch. Some of my favorite writers had made their living as journalists: Joan Didion, Hunter S. Thompson, Ernest Hemingway, Tom Wolfe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I had tremendous respect for their ability to craft reality both artistically and authentically. Already a fiction writer, I wanted to also learn how to shine a light in the dark and say ‘look here, and now, if you can stand it, look closer.’
Still, journalism terrified me.
And so this is the part in the story where I talk about “the turning point” or the “moment” that changed my mind where I triumphantly stood tall and proud, despite rain pouring down, a braver and better person. This is the part where I am supposed to tell you how I overcame my fears and became a journalist. But the truth is, there was no magical moment. I simply kept showing up.
Sarah Pollock , head of the journalism department, often says the best way to learn to be a journalist is just to go and do it.
And so that’s what I did.
I paced my living room week after week nervously cold calling strangers for interviews. I practiced asking questions aloud while driving in my car. I walked up to city council members at meetings hands shaking, stuttering on words asking them for a moment of their time–and the miracle? I survived. In fact I got used to it. And the more I got used to it the more I loved it, and then one day it just sort of hit me–I was a journalist–and as time passed I think I became a pretty good one.
The next year I kept at it. I joined the staff of The Campanil as assistant Features Editor and ultimately this year, my last at Mills, I had the honor of serving the newspaper, and the Mills community, as Editor-in-Chief.
Joan Didion once said that writers live in ‘a constant state of low dread.’ Add to that dread homework and term papers, full-time jobs and final exams and you can understand why I am so proud and impressed by what The Campanil staff has accomplished this year. Their dedication, talent and unflappable enthusiasm for the craft of journalism has inspired me on so many levels, and I hope you as well.
I am proud to say we returned The Campanil to its former weekly glory and I remain floored by the staffs commitment to serving the Mills community. They spend countless hours before, between and after classes working to bring you the news each week. It is hard work and they do it every day, every week, because they believe in its importance and its transformative potential.
I can say without hesitation that my time as Editor-in-Chief of The Campanil has been one of the most suprising and profoundly inspiring experiences I have had here at Mills. I have no doubt that the Campanil‘s incoming Editor-in-Chief, Lauren Sliter, will continue to push the paper in innovative and exciting directions. In addition to being a talented reporter she brings to the position a passion for journalism. She understands that a journalists first obligation is to truth and it’s first loyalty is to the community.
Before joining the paper in the Fall of 2009 I was a shy transfer student adrift. Now I have a lifelong family and I belong to a community of women who I deeply respect.
I want to thank the Mills community for allowing me to be of service to them and for their invaluable feedback and support over this last year. Journalism at it’s best “speaks truth to power.” I believe it is a crucial vehicle for change and for a campus dedicated to issues of social justice the potential of an independent student-run organization is endless.
So as I leave my post as Editor-in-Chief I would like to leave the Mills Community with this simple advice: Get uncomfortable. And just keep showing up.
And to next years staff: Publish and be damned. Print the news and raise hell.
Tara Nelson is the Editor in Chief of The Campanil. She will be graduating this May with a B.A. in English with an Emphasis on Creative Writing and a Journalism minor.
Her position will be succeeded by Lauren-Marie Sliter in Fall 2011.
Also, check out the new editors and staff members of The Campanil next semester.