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Miracle Workers

Claire Heininger | Friday, March 3, 2006

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger wasn’t exaggerating when he called it the daily miracle.

The legendary New York Times publisher wasn’t talking about college newspapers, of course. But his famous remark sums up perfectly how The Observer manages to appear on the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s campuses five days a week.

Beats me.

Even after leading the newspaper for a year, I still don’t understand how we did this 140 times, or why nearly 200 students sacrifice chunks of their GPAs, sleep and social lives for the sake of creating a campus newspaper.

Me, I can’t really pinpoint one moment when or one reason why I decided The Observer would dominate my Notre Dame life – that I’d blow off classes for reporting assignments, instinctively dissect dinner conversations for story ideas, spend more St. Patrick’s Days typing in the basement of South Dining Hall than chugging on a College Park balcony. Somewhere between Return to Glory and Monk Moves On, between saying no to the London Program and yes to the Editorial Board, I fell in love with journalism, added the news to my extensive list of addictions and resolved to make The Observer shine.

Of course, some just called it selling my soul. And they have a point – I’m not so naive as to think everyone commits to this newspaper to the same extremes or does it for the same reasons. There are those who do it for the notoriety (Alec and Erik), for the money (Nick and Sam), or because of their boss’s various bribes and guilt-trips (you know who you are). There are those who, frankly, I expect to stop showing up any day now. And then there are those – Pat, Heather, Mo, Sarah, Mike, Maddie and all the rest – who long ago decided, to my immense gratitude, that The Observer was where they’d make their Notre Dame identity.

At the end of my term, I’m realizing that our individual motivations matter less than the one reason we all have in common – even if we don’t all admit it – that isn’t exactly concrete.

It’s trudging into DeBartolo or the dining hall on two hours of sleep and watching students hungrily grabbing newspapers from the stacks. It’s surveying the restless audiences waiting for Father Jenkins’ inaugural address or academic freedom speeches and catching administrators, faculty and students alike poring over each page. It’s braving the swarming Bookstore on football Fridays just for the satisfaction of seeing alumni fight for copies of the newspaper you slaved over until 5:30 a.m. the night before. It’s holding each issue knowing you’ve contributed to 40 years of student sweat, integrity and fearlessness.

So yes, intangible is an understatement. But after an unforgettable year of proudly witnessing the talent, passion and dedication this staff pours into The Observer, I know I’ll never consider “daily miracle” overstating the case.