Katie Cline, Editor-in-ChiefI used to sit in my dad’s office and correct the Chanticleer with a red pen. In one issue, there was a jump line that said, “continued on page 2,” but the story wasn’t there. It just cut off in the middle of a sentence. I was appalled.
That was in high school. I don’t know who the Chanty editor was then, and I haven’t bothered to figure it out. But I do know that I relate to him or her now.
I never planned on becoming the editor of the Chanticleer. I didn’t grow up wanting to be a journalist. I just wanted to write. Because, words, well they’re our most inexhaustible source of magic, aren’t they? Writing has always come naturally for me. I used to turn my spelling word sentences into stories. I have journals upon journals and files upon files of poems and stories and character sketches that have never gone anywhere. I write letters to my best friends to celebrate graduations, anniversaries or just the beginning/end of another year. I have a lot of feelings, and words have always been my outlet when talking is maybe too hard. And, because I wanted to share all those feelings with everyone, I thought journalism was a career for me.
I was a little wrong.
Journalism isn’t a place for feelings—except that is. Journalism is short, hard, no-nonsense, “just the facts, ma’am” writing. But that has never meant that I shy away from issues I care about. In fact, I think you’ll find that journalists care more than your average person, because they’re willing to put aside their biases and their feelings to get the real story to the people. And, honestly, it’s one of the hardest things for a person to do.
In the two (amazing, eye-opening, inspiring difficult, long, draining, frustrating, exhilarating, ridiculous, invaluable) years that I’ve been editor, I’ve tried to show readers the human side of journalism. I’ve tried to make our articles about the people. I’ve tried to show ingenuity and originality and creativity. I’ve tried to lead with confidence when I’m terrified, wisdom when I’m unsure, kindness when I’m angry and persistence when I’d rather give up.
And I’m sure that—to an extent—I’ve failed. No one can do this job perfectly, or even as well as they want to. And whatever success I have had wouldn’t have been possible without the scores of people who have believed in me along the way:
My parents, George and Brenda Cline, who have never once told me that my dreams were too big, who run 7 a.m. paper routes and who know far more than they’d care to about the newspaper industry.
Marie McBurnett and Alex McFry, who let me write for the paper when I didn’t know what I was doing and encouraged me to keep pursuing this crazy thing called journalism.
Drs. Kingsley Harbor, Augustine Ihator, Patrick McGrail, Mr. Mike Stedham and Mr. Jerry Chandler, who saw something in me that made them think I’d be a good editor and gave me this job in the beginning—and who I hope don’t regret that decision two years later—and have given me so much genuine support and help as I adjusted into this role and then as I (attempted to) push boundaries and continue growing in my field.
Dr. Jason Peterson and Mr. Fawad Shah, who showed up this year and offered up just as much support and guidance as if they had had a say in hiring me in the first place.
ALL of my fantastic co-editors over the years—Katelyn “Bug” Schneider, Timothy Cash, Alissa Camplin, Rebekah Hawkins, Daniel Mayes and Chris Brown—who have grown with me, worked with me, laughed and cried and complained with me and made a stressful job a little more fun. Some have graduated; the others will, and I am honestly so proud that I got to work with each of you, and I know that you will be massive successes. Please give me a shout out in your Pulitzer speeches, and thank you for never telling me no, even when you definitely should have.
My best friend, Meg, who has sacrificed time with me because I needed to work, brought me food in the office when I was too busy to leave, spent hours listening to me complain and heard way more “confidential secrets” than she probably should have and never breathed a word of them. Thank you for your advice and patience and unfailing friendship even when I was way too much.
To the next editor, I hope you have as much support as I’ve had. I hope you’re braver than me. I hope you’re less afraid of confrontation. I hope you’re better at graphic design. I hope you love this job and everything it’s about more than I did, because, if you do, I know the paper will be in good hands. This small, weekly periodical is my baby in so many ways. I’ve watched it grow for two years, and I feel like a mother sending her child off to preschool for the first time.
And, like any good parent, I have some unsolicited advice as they drop you, scrambling and excited and nervous and reeling, into your editorship:
Treat every issue like it’s your last. Because you never know when a tornado is going to sweep through and throw you off. Don’t put off stories longer than you have to. Keep pushing. Pack every paper with the hardest hitting, most interesting news you can find. Ask more questions. Ask harder ones. Go into this job like it’s the spring semester of your senior year and no one can touch you.
Don’t be afraid. I promise, the worst thing they’ll say is “no.” (And if you’re lucky, they’ll say “no comment.”) If you feel like you’re onto something, pursue it. Make them know your name.
If it’s accurate, they won’t say anything to you. For me, the most rewarding part of being editor was when someone said they didn’t like what we ran. Not because I want to upset people, but because that means we said something that someone didn’t want to get out. Like housing. Like the rec center. Like financial aid. And if they read it and didn’t like it, it still means they read it. And that’s what you want. But no matter how nerve-wracking it is, go for it. Check it. Double check it. Then run it. Make sure it’s right, and you’re safe.
Make your own mark but know that you’ll never do enough. Don’t follow in my footsteps. Make your own mistakes. Do your own thing. Boost the areas I’m lacking in. Throw out that layout you hate. I won’t be offended. I had my time. This is yours. But, please remember that no matter what you do, you’ll never feel like you’ve done everything you’ve set out to accomplish. One year—or even two—isn’t enough time if you’re doing your job right.
My world is already spiraling into my next adventure: graduate school. This summer I’ll be moving to Manhattan…Kansas. I’ve been accepted at Kansas State University where I’ll be getting my Master’s degree in English with a concentration in Children’s Literature. I’ve been offered a graduate teaching assistantship and two scholarships. I’m going to (hopefully) study Harry Potter. I don’t know a lot of what’s going to happen, but I’m never going to stop writing, that much I know for sure.
I’ve been counting down to this, my last paper, for months, trying to decide what to say and how to say it. I’ve looked for song lyrics, Harry Potter quotes, old Chinese proverbs—anything that might describe how it feels to be coming to this moment. And nothing fits. For once, my words are failing me.
All I can say is “thank you.”
Thank you for reading and liking and sharing and making an overly optimistic twenty-something feel like she’s made a little bit of a difference doing something that she’s come to love so, so much.
This may be the last thing I write as editor, but it will not be the last thing I write.