Em & Em bid farewell to late nights at The Duke: 10 exclamation points later…

Emma and her famous twin brothers Luke (left) and Will (right).

Emma Polen | Editor-in-Chief 

When I got to Duquesne, I did not know a single soul.

Thanks to The Duke, I have 4,000 new friends.

There was Sally Power – a woman who’s helping other women in need, one top at a time. She started a women’s clothing thrift business out of her husband’s death and hasn’t stopped making her storefront the most affordable, accessible, supportive place for women in need. I went to cover her shop and ended up being introduced to a victim of domestic abuse, paranoid that any day her abuser would track her down. It was an on-the-spot conversation I will never forget.

I learned about Louisiana Mardi Gras traditions from a Louisian native herself…and had the honor of trying her homemade southern-style king cake.

Thanks to a talk at the National Aviary (with a human), I learned the difference between a Linneaus two-toed sloth and a three-toed sloth.

There was also Joy Krumenacker. It takes a certain level of thoughtfulness and care to speak with a mother surviving her sixteen-year-old son whose organ donation saved the lives of numerous other people. And how do you accurately share her story?

I talked to a marathon runner with a life-altering brain tumor. To this day, I still check up on Joe Peroney’s journey on social media. He got through his training with a playlist with all the songs that remind him of his closest friends. That type of person deserves to have their story well-represented.

How can you take the story of a passionate marathon runner who is more than just a hard working trainee and portray the entire individual on the page? I can’t say I have the answer to that, but I can say it’s a question that’s been on my mind the past three years on staff for The Duke.

No matter where post-grad takes me, I know I want to keep sharing these stories. Because they mean something to someone, and, in meeting these people along the way, they mean something to me, too.

And, of course, MY story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the friends I met in the newsroom. I know we’re all growing, every Wednesday night as we publish the paper without fail, but it’s hard to see when we’re in constant company. That’s why I’m grateful for the moments when things didn’t go the way we planned. It’s at these critical points that our improvement is revealed – as a team, turns out we’re great at cold-calling sources at 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night, writing and rewriting an entire 800-word story and finding the perfect comedic headline. It’s in these moments that I know this place will do great things without me.

No matter how much time goes by, there’s no lack of enthusiasm everyone at The Duke shares toward our work. With the help of Lauren Turin from campus technologies, we’re getting water fountains in College Hall. That’s the type of work that happens when we’re passionate and willing to put in the work. Willing to meet new people … and call the plumber every week and harass him until he gets so fed up with me and water fountains are installed.

Looking back at my first article, a story about virtual jazz, that enthusiasm for writing at The Duke shines through. I added an exclamation point to the first sentence of the story. Luckily, none of the editing staff took it out, because now I can look back and see how excited I was to get started with The Duke.

One of my first stories as layout editor was free birthday rewards to comp Downtown on your birthday. I distinctly remember our advisor, Paula, saying, “Emma, we’re cutting the exclamation points in this story down to one.” Somehow, eight exclamation points made it into the published version of the story. How did that happen? I guess the editor who posted my story shared the same enthusiasm as I did (It was me. I’m editor. Sorry, Paula). While I can count on one finger how many times I’ve had an exclamation point in my ledes since, I would say the passion I first had for a jazz Zoom and free food tricks never left.

In a way, I’ve exchanged those exclamation points for question marks. Instead of telling people they need to be excited about virtual jazz with an “!” I’m doing it with my reporting, but asking questions that will mean something to people. My job is to ask, “What’s happening?” “Why is there another construction worker digging up more of Forbes Avenue?” That initial enthusiasm hasn’t been replaced, it’s just been channeled into an energy to know more. To learn more. To ask more that matters.

I’m more than ready to graduate. But I can’t detach my future self with the person that I found at Duquesne. I came in with my own question: “What do I like to do? What’s my spark?” Now, all I need is a place to keep that spark alive.

If you want a link to my resume, message me on LinkedIn.

The end!

Brentaro Yamane | Multimedia Editor | Emma Polen (left) and Emily Ambery (right) became friends through The Duke. This year, Emily and Emma both found a new fear of sneezes. Taken by Brentaro Yamane (the picture, of course).