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Hours in the basement of South Dining Hall

| Thursday, March 8, 2018

Three years ago, I trudged into The Observer office on a Saturday morning. My editor said she needed all hands on deck, so — even though I was just a freshman, newly trained to layout the paper — I headed to the basement of South Dining Hall.

It was less than two days after the death of University President Emeritus Fr. Ted Hesburgh. And in the newsroom, everyone was stressed and exhausted.

Kayla was trying to work the fax machine because her source, apparently, could only answer questions via fax. Emily was speed-reading Hesburgh’s autobiography.

I didn’t do much more than place a few photos and type a few words. Mainly, I watched. I watched my coworkers — not yet friends, some not even acquaintances — cover the biggest story to date of their journalistic careers.

***

Sophomore year, I was assigned to the Wednesday night editing shift with Rachel.

It’s funny to look back on this time because I am now in almost constant communication with Rachel via text. When I went abroad last spring, I’m pretty sure I talked to her more than my own family.

But on this first Wednesday night shift, we didn’t have each other’s phone numbers. Rachel Facebook messaged me to see if I wanted anything from Starbucks beforehand.

The night went quickly downhill from there — both of us were working new positions for the first time. At 3 a.m., then-Editor-in-Chief Greg realized we had laid out the paper in the wrong font, so we had to redo the whole thing.

In a moment of desperation, Greg played Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” Then he demanded that we all stand up on the desks and sing along.

We finished the paper and left the office just before 5 a.m. I was tired and my patience was low. But I’d had fun.

***

I was running around The Observer office like a crazy person on election night 2016.

I was News Editor at the time, coordinating and communicating with our reporters scattered across campus to monitor reactions as the results rolled in.

For the early part of the evening, the race was too close to call. Our graphic designer had prepared a front page for a Clinton victory because, according to almost everyone, that was what was sure to happen.

But eventually — in a moment I’ll never forget — Zach turned to Lindsey and said: “You better start making the Trump cover.”

After the AP called the election, we rushed to pull together our stories and photos and graphics. When I returned to my dorm, my roommate Kari was already awake and getting ready for golf practice.

As I climbed into bed and set my alarm to wake me up for class in two hours, I couldn’t help but smile, proud of the work our team had accomplished that night.

***

I left the office after the sun had risen Monday morning. Students were already entering the dining hall for breakfast.

It was my penultimate shift at the paper. A fitting end to my Observer career.

We had stayed up all night editing Courtney’s exposé on student government. We — Courtney, Ben, Rachel and I — laughed a lot, because everything seems a lot funnier at 6 a.m.

We had a toast once the paper got sent down — a toast to Courtney, who’s taking over as the paper’s new fearless leader. A toast to the rest of us, who were finishing off a year of obsessing over headlines and AP style. A toast to The Observer.

***

I spent all those hours in the basement of South Dining Hall because I believe in the value of The Observer. It provides a service to the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s communities — it sparks conversations, creates a forum and shares untold stories.

I made friends along the way — because once you stand on desks and sing together at 5 a.m., it’s hard not to be. I’ve become a part of an eclectic group of people bonded together by our love for a newspaper.

At the ripe age of 22, I’m retiring from the best first journalism job I could have asked for. It’s taught me how to write and report, lead and listen.

Though I refuse to think about the looming deadline of graduation too much, I’m now also looking forward to the fact that I get to do the type of work I did at The Observer full time.

For all that, I can’t thank this paper enough.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, The Observer's former Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's an ex-Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

Contact Katie