In the first quarter of my first year I joined The Chicago Maroon, as a nervous new College student, curious about the diverse array of events occurring at the University. During my time on the paper, I worked as a news editor, the deputy editor-in-chief, and a social media editor. While serving in those roles I spent more time in The Maroon office than my apartment, I turned in midterms late in order to cover breaking news, and I learned more about the University than I could have from one of Dean Boyer’s famous monographs.
To be a part of The Chicago Maroon is to be a part of history. Established in 1892, the newspaper is the longest-running publication on campus. The Maroon’s office, hidden in the back of Ida Noyes Hall, holds the newspaper’s long past and current present. During any given production night, students debate journalistic ethics, review the ad sales for the week, and work technical magic at the computer to design the physical publication. Lining one wall of the office is The Maroon’s archives–every printed edition of the newspaper–one of the richest collections of the University’s history outside of Special Collections.
During its long history, The Maroon has run gossip columns, almost leaked state secrets about the atomic bomb, and documented Bernie Sanders’ early political activism. From breaking news stories about the changing Core to ads promoting 1940s war bonds, The Maroon’s archives cover the history of the University and its surrounding communities.
Many now-famous alumni have poured late hours into articles that are now archived in these books. In our midst, we’ve had Kinsey Wilson AB’79, the executive editor of USA Today; Robert B. Silvers AB’47, the co-founder of The New York Review of Books; multiple Pulitzer-Prize winners like David S. Broder AB’47, AM’51 and Daniel Hertzberg AB’68; and even Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens AB’1941.
What does it take to produce an eight- to 16-page student newspaper every Tuesday and Friday? Long hours, financial independence from the University, and a lot of peanut M&Ms. The Maroon consists of four editorial sections, a business team, a social media staff, and a team of web developers. Behind these classifications are over 100 students, working at all hours to produce a newspaper. The power of being the person to give final approval to an issue and send it to the printer is a giant responsibility that requires attention to detail, trust in a hardworking staff, and willingness to accept and respond positively to criticism.
Back in my freshman year I would never have imagined the amount of work I would put into The Maroon. After covering a town hall meeting featuring a new University administrator, I became interested in Student Government and campus activism, hoping to learn more about how students interacted with the governance of the University, which became my beat. By my second year I worked as a news editor, organizing the section and helping new students develop their own writing and journalistic interests.
As I became more involved in The Maroon I became more invested in overseeing its own internal structure. The Maroon is in a unique position to manage its staff and finances independent from the University, allowing students a high level of autonomy in the functioning of the newspaper. I hoped to develop a stronger sense of its history, organization, as well as an orientation to the changing trends in journalism. I ran for deputy editor-in-chief in the winter of my second year in order to implement my vision.
While none of this work was easy when added to the job of covering breaking news, I’m proud to have contributed in some way to the history of the newspaper. Although no single person can define an organization that has such a long legacy, I hope to have kept the newspaper on a strong trajectory.
In my various roles on The Maroon, I have learned how to think critically and ask clear questions, to write clearly and concisely, to work with and manage other students, and to put out a newspaper during a power outage.
More importantly, however, I gained a family the The Maroon. My first editors, many of whom are professional journalists now, became my mentors and inspirations. My co-editors became some of my closest friends, because there’s something about splitting a bag of M&Ms at 3 a.m. that really brings people together. The writers I trained have challenged me to constantly rethink my own assumptions and habits.
The Maroon has existed in many forms over the past 124 years, and I’m proud to have been a small part of that history.