By Kaitlin Fleming
This time last year I was excitedly preparing for the biggest role of my life — Editor in Chief of the Chanticleer Newspaper at Jacksonville State University — and now things are coming to an end.
Time sure flies. Now, I am already a full time employee of the Anniston Star. I am the managing editor of two weekly newspapers (The News Journal and The Cleburne News) and I am enjoying my time in the field I am so passionate about.
None of this would be possible without my journey as Editor in Chief.
And boy, oh boy, what a journey it has been.
In May of 2019 I officially took over as Editor in Chief. My small crew and I got started on whipping together a large tabloid-sized special section called The Gamecock Guide. Each year, Chanticleer staff put the guide together for incoming students, so they know where to eat, where to park, who they need to talk to about financial aid, etc.
Once the Gamecock Guide was completed, I began planning the regular editions. I decided that 2019-20 would be the season for the great rebirth of news in the newspaper. My News Editor Scott Young (who will officially be the new Editor in Chief tomorrow) worked hard and took feedback like a champion. He was never afraid of a story.
Then came time for our first paper of the school year — and then the next paper and then the next and so on and so forth, until our last edition of the year, March 12, 2020. Little did we know it would be the last print edition. Two front page headlines were about COVID-19 and the other one about the winners of the SGA Cocky Awards.
We faced challenges along the way. I had hard decisions to make and then stand behind — like choosing to tackle a story on the alleged rapes on campus — choosing to report on fee changes and crunch numbers about the money students would be forced to pay — and so much more.
Mike Stedham, the manager of student media at JSU, has been a guiding hand through this journey, and an endless supply of puns. Dr. J. Patrick McGrail, the department head for the Communication Department, has been a faithful ally to the paper and a voice for us. Saying thank you to them doesn’t seem good enough, but thank you is the only thing I know to say. So, thank you.
“The News Is More Important Than I Am”
I have had to learn some things the hard way, like no matter how hard you work and how proud you are of your teammates, there will always be at least one person out there who doesn’t value the time you poured into something or how much of yourself you sacrifice to do a good job — here’s looking at you Jesse Groover.
I also learned that news is much more important than I am. Which seems like an obvious statement, but what that means to me is it doesn’t matter which friends you lose, what amount of sleep you lose, how many times you are up against a wall and tired, it doesn’t matter. The news is more important. It also doesn’t matter who has the byline, who has the titles, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the news.
My former boss at the Anniston Star just recently furloughed himself in an attempt to preserve as much of the newsroom staff as possible, and Anthony Cook was a prime example of a man who sacrificed himself in the name of news. He quoted Edward R. Murrow, an American broadcast journalist, when he left. That quote has stuck with me and will stick with me for the rest of my life. “The news is more important than I am.”
Turtles & Fence Posts
So, what’s next for me? I will keep on working at the Anniston Star and making papers that I, and my coworkers, can be proud of. I’ll be keeping an eye on The Chanticleer too, but it is in great hands. I’m sure I will send Scott Young an editorial piece from time to time that he’ll get to decide to run or not. But, I don’t think this turtle is going to be stuck on any fence posts and I don’t think the paper will be in trouble this year.
All that’s left for me at JSU is my degree, which I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of. I hope the post carrier is gentle with it, because that degree hasn’t been gentle to me. The journey through JSU has been a tough one. Life hasn’t been kind through most of my journey, but I made it through stronger than I was before.
So, thanks JSU for teaching me how to be tough and stand up for myself.
Goodbye, For Now
As my final act as Editor in Chief, I would like to personally thank everyone who encouraged The Chanticleer this past year. This was no walk in the park. Dealing with tight-lipped administration, tiptoeing around sensitive subjects, talking with terrified sources, trying to meet deadlines and still making something we could be proud of every day was a challenge. A challenge that my team met head on, and didn’t back down from. I would also like to tell the haters that it was a pleasure banning you all from the Facebook page.
We proved this year that the student operated newspaper is still a newspaper and is a reliable source for information for students, faculty and the community surrounding JSU’s campus.
Take care, beloved readers, and keep yourselves and your families safe. Be kind to yourselves and to each other. Remember to support local journalism when you can and please wash your hands.
Scott, she’s all yours.
Kaitlin Fleming was Editor in Chief of The Chanticleer Newspaper from May 1, 2019 until April 30, 2020.