A fall semester of firsts, goodbye and good luck

I have two more semesters here at WKU, but by the time this issue hits the stands I will have graduated from the hardest, most fulfilling program I’ve ever been in.

It’s hard to think about my first semester at the Herald without cringing.

I was so eager and intimidated when I got my first assignment — a “foam party” on campus, the thought of which is still pretty disgusting.

The photographer I was with, Jabin Botsford, wouldn’t let me leave as soon as I got there. He pushed me (not literally, thank God) to talk to people. He didn’t let me leave after five minutes.

My hands were visibly shaking even as I was seriously asking someone about rolling around in soap suds. What high stakes!

But I got that story in. And then one after the other until this column, which will bring my total to 118.

But without turning this into a self-aggrandizing spiel on how I rose through the ranks and became the tyrant editor-in-chief I secretly hope to be remembered for, I actually want to tell you about my staff.

In journalism, we rarely write about ourselves.

We don’t have the opportunity to tell you about the daily struggle to put together such a beautiful product — unless you are a family member or a friend, in which case it’s the only thing we ever talk about. Sorry about that.

I came back from a study abroad trip in May to find $2 million slashed from the budget. The spring staff had already sent the last paper for the semester. So, during finals week, my staff put together a paper about the budget cuts in a day and put it online. That was a first for the Herald.

There’s been a lot of firsts this fall.

We created a page for photojournalism, erasing the stigma that photographers work for the writers. That page was in every single issue, and it’s one of my proudest accomplishments as an editor.

We also started Herald Underground, a video series you can learn more about in this issue.

We shook up our writing and killed our most well-known series, “AtoZ,” to break out of the box. The profiles and stories this semester have been strong and more enticing to you — I can say that because more people are picking us up than they have before.

Our news design is leaps and bounds above anything I’ve ever seen at a college paper, or even local papers.

Our goal this semester has been to give you something you want to pick up and read.

It hasn’t been a perfect semester, and I haven’t been perfect either. That said, we’ve done so well because we aren’t afraid to try something new and totally fail. I’m beyond grateful to the fall staff for that.

I didn’t realize it at first, but the best part of my job this semester has been proofreading the pages for errors. In the beginning they were hemorrhaging with red. Now, there’s a scrape or two on a page. I have actual, physical proof that people are learning.

Proof that people care about getting better.

I don’t know if there’s physical proof that I’ve learned how to be a better manager — maybe that my nose hasn’t been broken by someone here.

I’ve learned a lot about writing and a lot about working with people.

A good amount of the reason this semester has been so successful is because of my Managing Editor Taylor Harrison. She’s been my partner and MVP since that first day in May.

Taylor, I speak for everyone in the office when I say thank you for consistently calling me out on my bullshit.

I’m thankful to have a staff of people who believed in me and believed in the paper and for the triad of Herald advisers, Chuck Clark, Carrie Pratt and Mr. Adams, who haven’t been afraid to duel with me when I’ve been so sure about a bad idea.

Working 40-plus hours a week at the Herald has meant we’ve spent a lot of time together. Not every hour has been the most fun (or even pleasant sometimes), but I wouldn’t want be anywhere else.

I’m lucky to have had this job for as long as I have, and I’m thankful WKU has an organization that has helped me so much.

I hope Joanna Williams and her staff for spring 2014 get as much out of this as we did.