Selling my soul
Maddie Hanna | Monday, March 5, 2007
On a chilly, rainy day three Novembers ago, I sold my soul to journalism.
The University had fired Ty Willingham, and that afternoon, those were the only words out of anyone’s mouth. My editors, rushing to cover each angle as it broke, decided to take a chance on an eager freshman. I hustled out of class, excited and nervous and determined – I naively approached Darius Walker in LaFortune, not thinking the football team had probably been instructed not to comment – and showed up breathless at the Main Building, notebook in hand.
As I forced my numb, uncooperative hands to furiously take down quotes, praying the words wouldn’t be too blurred by rain, I was cold, overwhelmed and still a little nervous – but thrilled.
Two and a half years later, I’m no longer an anxious-beyond-belief rookie reporter whose heart would pound faster than she could scribble. But that thrill is still there. It’s the feeling that hits my gut when there’s big news to tackle. It’s how my stomach always gets a little uneasy before an interview, trying to guess what the person might say. It’s when my mind races into an unfolding story and suddenly sees how to put it together.
Most of all, it’s why I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. And that’s why taking over as editor in chief of The Observer is both satisfying and nerve-wracking, a reward and a responsibility.
It’s the greatest feeling when the front page of The Observer reaffirms its importance on this campus. It’s the worst to see a glaring headline misspelling, to miss a story that would have meant something to readers, to hear an accusation of misquoting.
Those mistakes are dishearteningly avoidable. They do, however, keep editors grounded. After all, journalism is challenging – and not always exciting. It’s rare to have a “Monk moves on,” “Willingham fired” or “Jenkins delivers verdict” kind of day. Bombs don’t drop often. National championship seasons come and go, but newspapers print forever. It makes the everyday stories important. It means finding thrills in the small things. It pushes us to better serve readers on a daily basis, to put events into context, to treat each story both accurately and truthfully.
I’m frequently questioned about my attachment to this job. What people don’t usually see is the way my supposedly inexplicable obsession mirrors one of their own. Why do some people commit their lives – and bodies – to a sport? Why do others devote themselves to a subject, a cause, a belief? Why does anyone fall in love?
Point is, we can’t help it. Selling my soul was never my choice, so I don’t regret it. I’m just thrilled.