It took me a while to decide on a starting point for this column. It’s hard to sum up three years of work, time, effort, successes and failures into a short 900-word article. Do I focus on the opportunities provided to me by this newspaper, the achievements that I can pin onto a resume, or something else? Ultimately, it wasn’t a tough decision — it was something that the Kansan has symbolized to me ever since my first byline appeared online in September 2016.
Family. Or perhaps more accurately, the Famsan.
But before I get to that, it’s probably important to make note of how I got here. It was just my second week in Kerry Benson’s Journalism 101 class — I was just one of over 100 students sitting in a Budig lecture hall, a dot in the sea of wannabe journalists. It was the start of my sophomore year, after the train wreck of a freshman year that saw me I realized I actually suck quite a lot at science and decided that perhaps a psychology major and pre-med track wasn’t for me.
So heading into my second year at KU I said: “Screw it, I’ll try journalism.” Bear in mind this is coming from a 19-year-old who’d never written a journalistic article in his life. So when then-sports editor Christian Hardy came into my class asking for sports writers to come write for The University Daily Kansan, you know what I said?
“Screw it, I like sports.”
I at least knew what the Kansan was at the time — a year earlier I was interviewed over Facebook Messenger by Conner Mitchell, about finding value in a liberal arts degree (I hope you told your editors it was over Facebook Messenger, Conner!!). Sitting in an Overland Park McDonalds answering questions over text about a degree I would soon no longer pursue, munching on my McChicken that I’d predictably scraped all the lettuce off of, I didn’t know at the time that I was being interviewed by my future boss as well as my future managing editor.
I also didn’t know what the Kansan would soon mean to me as I sat in a dimly lit conference room — we finally fixed the lights about a month ago — having a ton of information spewed at me by Christian about how to be a sports writer.
It was a lot to take in, but the one thing that didn’t cross my mind a single time? “I’m going to run this whole ass newspaper in two years time.”
But that’s the point where I want to stop talking about myself, and more about the people whom I work with, the people whom I consider my closest friends. Those who have put up with me shouting obscenities at a TV during Liverpool games and have commented more than once on my god-awful eating and sleeping habits.
Because without all of them, I wouldn’t have been able to run this whole ass newspaper my entire senior year.
I was coming into the editor-in-chief position with a strictly-sports background. I’d spent my first two years in the media booth at Rock Chalk Park covering track & field and soccer, or having my accent poked fun at by Bill Self whenever he could.
I didn’t have a clue about Student Senate or University administration or anything of the sort. I was terrified. That’s where the people I worked with became some of the people I love the most.
One of the defining moments in my young career came from the kind words of Nicole Asbury. The wonderful trio of Nicole, Conner and Lara Korte were on the verge of revealing the cause of the University’s $20 million budget cuts — they were seriously kicking ass while I just chilled in the newsroom editing and publishing stories. I felt useless.
But it was Nicole who told me and continued to reiterate, that my openness and leadership to let them work on the story while I continued daily operations and gave them as much time as needed was a huge boost for them. It was something I still deeply appreciate to this day — I may not be up to my neck in investigative journalism, but as long as I was leading and giving people freedom, I was doing my job.
Secondly, this column cannot be published without mentioning my wonderful managing editor for this past semester, Savanna Smith. Having her beside me has helped transform the Kansan in a multitude of ways, taking chances and always looking to improve.
Some things worked great, such as revamping how the front page looks and pushing for more videos online. Other things were not so great, such as the infamous one-time-use-only nameplate. One night we reorganized the furniture in the newsroom just to move it all back almost immediately, labeling it as “another nameplate situation.”
But perhaps most importantly, she’s supported me both in the workplace setting and personal life, and I couldn’t ask for a better friend.
I could keep on going, but I really need to put a cap on this story — practice what I preach and keep stories beneath 1,000 words. So the last couple of thank you's go to Amie Just for really helping me grow out of my journalistic shell, Rob Karwath for the endless wise words and countless stories, Emma Green for always being there for me and for some reason dating me, and even those outside the Kansan who have given me the chance to grow and improve and learn.
I have memories with every single person at this newspaper and I wish I could call you all out individually — so if I have not: Thank you.
The Kansan hasn’t just been a student organization or place of work for me. It’s been my passion, my safe space, my home, my family. The Famsan.