A newspaper is worth fifty thousand words

By Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor

Seth Culp-Ressler, features editor

51,701 words.

That’s an average of about 850 words over the span of 61 total articles, profiles, features and columns. Now it’s my job to sum all that up in just under 800.

I’ve been thinking about this column for a long time. I knew I’d eventually have to undertake that task of monumental compression. I knew it would be, for lack of a better word, weird to sit down and put to (digital) paper. I knew it would be the last thing I’d ever write for The Duke.

I didn’t know that it would be this difficult to do.

In my mind it was a given that the words would already be there. Surely the column had already been written; all it needed was to show up on the page. Yet, sitting here now, it’s still writer’s block as ever.

When awkward, shy, far-less-handsome-than-now Seth moved into his Assumption Hall basement triple in the fall of 2013, journalism was the one and only path to take. I knew I wanted to write. I knew I wanted to tell stories, and, to be quite frank, I thought I was pretty damn good at doing both.

I wasn’t — not sure that’s changed much, really. The one sensible thought I did have, however, is that any respectable student journalist needed to be involved with the student newspaper. So, after getting my bearings for a semester, I headed down to the dark, dingy newsroom in the basement of College Hall.

Despite being intimidated from day one, I stuck it out and kept showing up, week after week. I wrote some decent stories, and I certainly wrote some that I’d rather not remember. Above all, it was clear that the paper was the place to be for the next three years.

When I returned in the fall of 2014, I expected more of the same — writing primarily for the features section as a staff writer. As a first semester sophomore, the idea of being hired on as a section editor wasn’t even a thought in my mind. Life has a way of shaking things up, though, and shortly into that term, as a result of some unforeseen staff changes, the features section was in need of an editor.

This fact, I should say, was sprung upon me one evening by the then editor-in-chief. What caught me off guard was that it came as more than just a notice. It was a job offer, effective immediately.

A few long days of deliberation later — this was an enormous responsibility to take on, after all — I decided to swallow my anxieties and take the leap. After some slapdash training in the remainder of the fall term, I began my tenure as features editor in the spring 2015 semester.

I can say with strong confidence that those first four months were some of the most stressful and mentally taxing that I’ve ever experienced. It was a whirlwind of overwhelming change, hard work and stress, and I was caught right in the eye of the storm.

Just like I had as a staff writer, though, I stuck it out. Thankfully, it got easier each day, each week, each month. Now, after five semesters in the position, it’s hard to believe my time at The Duke is done.

That dingy old office saw some renovations over my time calling it home; it’s much more welcoming now than when I first ventured in. But the sensation of walking in the door is still the same. Those poignant feelings of stress, excitement, disdain and joy, all rolled up into one confusing concoction.

Like most who have been privileged enough to show up on The Duke’s masthead, the paper was the cornerstone of my college career. It’s where I spent most of my time, and it’s where I made most of my friends.

A certain tension can arise when the same people spend so much of their waking hours together, but I’d like to extend my sincere and utmost thanks to every person I’ve been able to work alongside in the newsroom. You all may not know it, but every single one of you has played a hugely important role in shaping what these four brief years mean to me.

When I think back to this time years down the road, your names will be the ones I remember, your friendships will be the ones I cherish and our experiences together will be the stories that define my college career. Thank you for everything.

Now, at long last, it’s time for us to part ways, at least as coworkers. But before we go, I have one more thing to wrap up: