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Headlines & deadlines

Karen Langley | Thursday, February 28, 2008

Early this morning – after the past-deadline stories trickled in, after an editor checked the headlines one last time, even as the presses ran – my term as news editor ended.

So long as no unexpected spring break events consume my meager savings, my time at The Observer is through.

I joined the paper freshman year, eager to find my place on a campus that still intimidated me. Two friends from my classes and dorm had begun writing news stories, and it seemed to be working for them.

(It continued to work for them. Maddie Hanna and Mary Kate Malone just completed their terms as Editor-in-Chief and Assistant Managing Editor and are headed off to internships at top papers.)

Somewhere between writing my first story about campus MLK Day celebrations and covering the University’s response to Hurricane Katrina, I fell for journalism.

I fell for the unexpected confidences, the newsroom chemistry and the rush of the catalytic deadline.

Between covering Father Jenkins’ verdict on the Vagina Monologues and reporting on the Common Council’s attempts to make students register parties, I learned there was a lot more to the craft than finding that perfect lede and that defining quote.

The adrenaline rush may have drawn me to this craft, but it was in the tension of applying the loftiest ideals of reporting to messy reality that I became committed.

As my colleagues in the sports department often remind me, many of the news stories we cover can seem a bit trivial. But that’s OK. The Observer may have a tiny coverage area, but the world of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s is fascinating and – to many people – immensely important.

After graduation, I’m going to try and give real-world, big-city reporting a chance. Or, given the journalism job market, I should say it’s going to give me a chance.

For now, my biggest concern is how I’ll fill 40 free hours each week. But with only 10 more weeks to live by my best friends, I don’t think filling time will be hard. Without the weekly 6 a.m. editing nights, my body may finally return to its natural sleep cycle, and my friends can finally stop wondering whether their throwaway remarks about campus life will be turned into stories for the next week’s papers.

Forward your press releases and news tips to Bill Brink, my replacement. If you see me at breakfast, it will be because I got up early, not because I haven’t slept.

News is unpredictable, and the next few weeks could hold a story so big I’ll be back in the South Dining Hall newsroom, begging Brink to put me on it. But if this is the last thing I ever write for The Observer, I can live with that.

I’ll leave knowing I’ve found more than a pastime.