I’m a notoriously indecisive person, but I knew I wanted to join the campus paper at whatever college I was attending before I even got into Stanford. And despite the rollercoaster the last four years has been, I’m glad I never second-guessed this choice, because The Daily has been my home at Stanford.
I became a desk editor in the second half of my freshman year; since that point, my pre-pandemic college experience was defined by the rhythm of The Daily’s production cycle. I processed campus news in terms of the headlines they led to before I thought about their impact on my life as a student. I’ve spent an uncountable number of hours at The Daily house, in meetings, at production or just hanging out. I once walked out in the middle of a lecture to cover a Daily story. Another time I drove with two editors to San Francisco on a Friday night to chase a lead for an investigation we only learned by eavesdropping when a source pocket-dialed me.
In my junior year, I became editor-in-chief; that volume was a period of incredible growth, but also of inordinate stress. I learned how to coordinate an insane number of moving parts, how to make tough ethical calls and when something doesn’t need to be perfect, just publishable. I helped marshal editors to convince hundreds of students to join in September (leading to the most unmanageable rollouts I’ve ever seen) and worked hard over the next few months to give them a reason to stay.
But I also faced the lonely reality of, as current EIC Erin Woo ’21 put it in her editor’s farewell, the weight of all final decisions falling on your shoulders. When something went wrong, I saw it as my fault; when something went right, it was because I had fantastic editors and staff. It was, I now recognize, not the healthiest mindset, and I’m forever grateful to my executive editor Holden Foreman ’21 for sticking by my side through all the highs and lows.
I finished my term as EIC in Jan. 2020, when Covid was a small enough issue in the U.S. that we could toss all virus-related articles to the same beat reporter. By the time I limped across the finish line of winter quarter, only four weeks liberated from my post, campus was shutting down.
Without The Daily or campus, I felt lost. I enrolled in 22 units in spring 2020 to fill the gap. (It did not work, and I quickly burned out.) As the remote quarters continued, I thought a lot about finding balance, not only in where I spend my time, but where I’m emotionally and personally invested. I’ve thought about what it means to stake so much of your worth into one thing, or into your work product in general, and how my Daily experience might have felt if I separated Julia, the person, from Julia, the Daily editor. If I had known it would end when it did, would I have approached it differently?
I’m grateful that, for nearly every challenging moment at The Daily, there was a rewarding one behind it. I’m grateful for each time I got to make the late night call to send the paper and write the time we finished on the whiteboard. For getting to watch the Quote Board fill up with the funny things people said at production. For the thrill of an exploding Slack channel or group text when a story broke, and the simultaneous entry of three reporters and two editors into The House to pounce on the same Google Doc. For the debauchery of every Banquet and Trivia Night. To have played such a big role in the last five-day-a-week print volume of The Daily. To have met some of my closest friends from the hours we pored over this paper together. To have found the thing that keeps me going, a career I’m excited to pursue.
I haven’t really begun to process the fact that I’m graduating. I’ve hardly had time to wrap my head around the fact things were ending, because I spent so much time waiting for them to begin again. So, for those of you who will get to see Stanford (and The Daily) fully come to life next year, don’t get too caught up in the stress of it all. These moments will be gone before you know it.
Contact Julia Ingram on Twitter @juliaingram_.