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A sophomoric farewell column to an unforgettable assignment

| Wednesday, January 25, 2023

This column mentions issues relating to sexual violence.

Last year, two of the most powerful inside columns I read were farewell letters from editor-in-chief Adri Perez and the iconic photography editor — who is an even better water pong partner — Allison Thornton. 

It’s absolutely ridiculous, considering that I’m probably the most sophomoric sophomore on this newspaper’s staff, but I have my own farewell letter. Recently, I switched from Saint Mary’s associate news editor to the same position in the Notre Dame news department. I think my experience working at Saint Mary’s is worth sharing.

But buckle up, because the ride will get rough.

As a Gateway student at Holy Cross, I became good friends with then-Saint Mary’s editors Gen Coleman and Crystal Ramirez. I took a Chinese course at Saint Mary’s that fall semester, and the editors kindly took me under their wing.

I say “kindly” because, though I’m still sophomoric, my freshman self was a full-on menace working at The Observer. Loud, obnoxious and quite inefficient while working at production shifts, I lacked any trace of professionalism. But, thanks to their kindness, the newspaper was nothing but fun for me.

When I applied for Notre Dame associate news editor, I didn’t land the job. Isa Sheikh, who I’m now besties with, got it over me. For that, Isa, you suck, but I still love you, obviously (with a heart-eyes emoji).

In a turn of fate, the Saint Mary’s department needed help to keep the ship sailing last spring. The department’s new editor, Meg Lange, then turned — for the first time in The Observer’s history — to a man, me.

Some may have thought a male Saint Mary’s associate news editor was kind of weird, but I loved it. Out of the 50-something stories I’ve written for The Observer, Saint Mary’s stories make up by far the most important and heavy-hitting reporting I have done since joining the Observer. 

I reported on enviable assignments. For one story, I cleared up confusion about an error on customers’ bank statements at the Saint Mary’s Shaheen Bookstore. It required nonstop communication with public relations director Lisa Knox as well as countless interviews with students to get to the bottom of the matter. In another story, I covered the College’s updated COVID-19 policies and its students’ reactions to them. The stories felt important to report on, something we reporters thirst for while covering news.

There was, however, another aspect of the job that changed my life: the assignments I covered about sexual violence issues and events around the tri-campus, often led by Saint Mary’s organizations.

Being a Notre Dame guy, I can admit that it is easy to forget how real sexual assault issues are.

It sounds ridiculous, but we live with a bunch of good, genuine guys. Despite quiet rumors which circulate about some specific men in our halls, we generally feel good about the rest.

But at Saint Mary’s, I encountered a very different reality. Sexual assault issues aren’t forgotten about; they are felt in a very painful and genuine way. 

Last April, I attended Take Back the Night as a reporter and held back tears as I wrote the story. It sounds dramatic, but I surely wasn’t alone. The night was necessary but incredibly scarring. 

Seeing survivors and supporters gather, hearing those dark stories and witnessing them raise each other back up with prayer, chants, hugs and tears were some of the most intense, most powerful moments of humanity I’ve ever observed.

I also covered several lectures and open-discussion events on the topic of sexual assault. The events included alumni authors, student researchers and Saint Mary’s leadership, who all dove into the topic of sexual violence with unforgettable courage and care for their audiences.

On one hand, the events and stories I wrote left me feeling empty. The utter lack of respect displayed by perpetrators of this heinous type of violence was discouraging for my general worldview. Simultaneously, however, I witnessed some of the strongest, most powerful voices I’ve ever heard through the survivors’ responses.

They all struggle in unique ways but for these events, they fought back. I got to see them build each other back up and battle, literally fighting with their whole hearts, against the unfortunate realities of sexual violence in our society. 

The pain is felt at Saint Mary’s; we must not forget.

I know this column took a dark turn of subject, but I am genuinely grateful for everyone in the Saint Mary’s News Department, from former Saint Mary’s associate news editor, editor-in-chief and journalism icon Maria Leontaras, to Gen, Meg, Katelyn, Cathy, Cora, Rose and the rest. Working for less than a year in the department with them, I can say that Saint Mary’s News is among the most important and sensitive work this paper produces.

Now, my position is simply as an associate news editor in the Notre Dame department. It’s easier for me as a student here, and not at Saint Mary’s, so my lazy self enjoys it. But one thing is for certain: I’m lucky to have been given the chance to work across the street.

So, as an over-passionate writer of this newspaper, take one piece of advice from me: follow their work; or, at least, please don’t disregard them any more than you disregard the rest of this newspaper and print journalism as a whole.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this column referred to Maria Leontaras as the former Saint Mary’s news editor, a position she never held. The Observer regrets this error.

You can contact Liam Price at [email protected]

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

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About Liam Price

Liam Price is a first year Gateway student from Lambertville, New Jersey. He intends to major in political science, and is currently serving as a New Writer Editor for The Observer.

Contact Liam