Working on the Horizon student newspaper has been my best experience at Whatcom so far.
I could not have foreseen my level of involvement in the Horizon when I started attending Whatcom.
Throughout my time at the Horizon, I had great insight and development in a real-world parallel into the struggles of publication and the practices that accompany the grand task of printing a paper.
The publication schedule has kept the staff here fighting to stay on top of a fast moving environment, work together as a team, and use the resources around us efficiently.
Twelve years ago, when I was asked to take over the journalism position after a recently hired teacher left in the middle of the quarter, the Horizon newsroom was a windowless room about the size of a walk-in closet in Laidlaw, as Syre Student Center hadn’t yet been built.
We had a couple of old computers, but no Internet connection. The editor and production editor had to drive out to the printer in Lynden with the finished proofs and if there were any problems, drive back to the college to fix them, then go back to Lynden. We didn’t have digital cameras, so the photo editor had to take the film over to a camera shop in the mall to be developed.
Still, after teaching English 100 and English 101 for several years, I saw journalism as a fresh and lively endeavor. I stopped teaching English composition and never looked back.
The beginning was rocky, and not just because of technical issues. The newspaper operation had a certain, shall I say, lack of professionalism.
Often, stories just weren’t finished by deadline or the production editor failed to finish the layout on time. And embarrassingly (at least to me) several times that first year the paper was printed days after its scheduled publication. Proofreading was nearly nonexistent and errors were rampant.
By the second year, I realized that strict penalties for not meeting deadlines and clear ethical and professional guidelines for journalism students and Horizon staff were essential, not only to the health of the newspaper but also to my own mental health.
From that time on, with a few exceptions, it’s been a very rewarding job (though not financially). I believe strongly in the values of journalism–honest, objective, thorough reporting and clear concise writing—and so it has been my challenge to teach students how to put those values into practice, and my pleasure when I see them embracing those values in their work.
You can tell how seriously they take the job during our classes when we read and comment on drafts (three for each story) and ask reporters to go back and find out more, talk to more people, ask more questions.
Yet we also enjoy the occasional hilarity as we try to think up Whatcom Voices questions or create clever headlines (the ones you haven’t seen are the source of the humor).
Horizon editors–who have run the gamut from 16-year-old Running Start students to a 35-year old former hair stylist from Boston—and staff spend countless hours perfecting the paper. They fuss over such details as the nuances of captions, the appropriate Associated Press style for capitalization or the placement of commas.
Often this work goes on late into the night or on weekends, with greasy pizza boxes and marked-up 11-by-17 proof pages littering the newsroom table. It’s been a privilege and an inspiration for me to witness the dedication of students who take on the huge responsibility and commitment of producing a quality newspaper to serve the college community.
As I look back over the newspapers from my time here, I see that Horizon reporters have covered subjects small and large, from dead cats being dissected in biology lab to a life drawing class, from dyslexia to sleep deprivation, from the veterans’ club to volcanoes.
Our readers learned about teachers who dig up archeological artifacts and those who stage mock crimes in the classroom, about custodians who clean the campus bathrooms, about a golden retriever named Ozzie and about students who come from Denmark, Egypt, Turkey, Taiwan and Tanzania.
We wrote about the border troubles after September 11, 2001, about the Bellingham bomb squad destroying an unattended metal box on campus (it turned out to contain art supplies) and about a student on the Horizon staff who received a raunchy tweet from a congressman and became the subject of national media attention.
We weathered a storm of angry letters about an advertisement for an adult video shop – the most letters to the editor we have ever received – and the inevitable controversies about our reporting of conflicts or upheaval in the student council.
Times have changed, thank goodness, since those early days. The Horizon consistently meets its deadlines for print publication and we no longer get letters from readers detailing numerous typos and grammatical errors.
We have a large newsroom with working computers, up-to-date software programs, a digital camera and, yes, Internet access. We have a website for our newspaper and we’re on Facebook and Twitter, though our readership is still largely through the print paper.
What has not changed is the commitment of journalism students to the newspaper and the college’s support of students’ rights to a free press. For that, I am grateful and also hopeful that, as I leave my job, the Horizon will continue as strong and vital and interesting as ever.
(If you are a former member of the Horizon staff and want to share your memories, or if you just want to say goodbye to Toby, feel free to do so in the comments below.)
My mom always told me that there are no such things as accidents. I came onto the Horizon kicking and screaming, 10 months out of high school, 19 years old, and a former editor in chief of a staff comprised of rag-tag ragamuffins. I had no desire to do student run newspaper ever again.
My co-editor from my high school newspaper called me one April evening in a panic because the current editor-in-chief of the Horizon, who had previously done production, was graduating that quarter and the Horizon was in dire need of a production editor. I told her no. I didn’t want to do it. End of story. The end.
However, being a poor college student, any mention of money, heck, a job, is enough of an incentive. She told me the position was paid and I begrudgingly said, “Fine, I’ll do it.”
What I didn’t know at the time was that the Horizon was going to completely change my life.
I’ve always believed that newspaper brings people of all walks of life together. I’ve made friends with people who I never would have even approached on my own. Some of them hold completely different views on life than I do, while others share the exact same. I’ve had people who I consider to be the older siblings I never had and people who will have deep intellectual conversations with me and not bat an eye at my beliefs.
I came onto the Horizon during the scandal about Anthony Weiner, a New York representative who tweeted a lewd picture to a female Horizon reporter. Yes, the attention that it brought was exciting and thrilling on a journalistic spectrum. It’s not every day you answer the phone hearing CNN Seattle on the other end or taking multiple messages from major news stations around the country several times a day. But that’s only a small piece of what I experienced during my time.
It’s the small things: the running jokes, hanging out in the Horizon room for two hours before class just talking the whole time, the camaraderie, the sense of belonging, and the people that I’ll miss the most.
Being on the Horizon made me realize how much I really do love my job. I love to design: it’s like putting together a 1000 piece puzzle over and over again and every time you finish. There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment that many people don’t understand. I look back at my first issues and to my last and there’s nothing I would change.
Every mistake, whether that be in print or behind-the-scenes, helped make me a better editor and better person.
I came onto the Horizon as a shy, timid, teenager and I’m leaving as a confident, slightly less introverted, young woman.
More than anything, the Horizon helped me grow up. And for that I’ll be forever thankful.
Unaccustomed as I am to writing about myself, I have been struggling to try to come up with some profound bit of wisdom with which to part ways with the Horizon, and the people that make it what it is. (Spoiler alert: I failed).
I guess I didn’t really know what to expect with regards to a student newspaper. There were a few people who had been around for a while, but most of them were new like me. My first story was on the waste audit, which was about sorting garbage on campus. This was oddly appropriate, as I needed to learn how to sort out the garbage from my writing. (Thank you, I’ll be here all week, remember to tip your servers).
I have read things people wouldn’t believe. Stuff so good, by all rights, it should have been in “Rolling Stone”. Stuff so bad, I was tempted to make a note on the draft “Everyone on staff is now dumber for having read this. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”
I have met people who I probably would not have conversed with otherwise.
It is to them that I say these words.
Goodbye Melissa, who introduced me to “Sherlock” for which I will be eternally grateful. (Actually, we’ll see one another at Western, so more like “See you in January.”)
Goodbye Andrew, you always reliable, Wil Wheaton wannabe.
Goodbye Toby, who taught me everything in the world about journalism, except the things she didn’t.
Goodbye, Cutter, my editor, accomplice, and, dare I say…friend.
And goodbye Whatcom. You have talked to me and shared with me, and I can’t tell you how much easier that makes my job.
(Insert profound last sentence here).
The official student newspaper of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington