Katia Faroun | Features Editor
Pinned next to my computer in the newsroom is a stack of little green papers, each printed with some sort of superlative or title next to a Clipart image of a gold star with “you tried” written in Comic Sans. These papers are my Duke Awards: sometimes cute and usually sarcastic “awards” the editors give each other at the end of each academic year when we publish our last paper.
One of these awards — from my first semester as an editor, back in the fall of 2018 — bears the words “Rookie of the Year Award for seamlessly blending into weirdness that is the Duke staff.” And out of all the pieces of paper I received that semester as a newbie, that’s the one I felt most honored by, and still do to this day.
The first time I walked into that newsroom was as an extremely shy and very-aware-of-my-age freshman looking for ways to “get involved” and “establish a community,” like all the adults I knew told me to. That night, I picked up a position as a volunteer photographer and left feeling intimidated, but accomplished.
Half a year later, I was back in that newsroom — this time for a job interview. And I was twice as intimidated as I was the first time.
The people I found in that room were comfortable and confident. The walls and desks were littered with images alluding to inside jokes, their conversations riddled with sarcastic, yet affectionate jabs. Through the air of professionalism, I could feel the strength of their friendships, and wanted in.
When I found out I got the job, I think I almost cried. It felt unreal that after only one year studying journalism and photographing for The Duke, I was going to be their photography editor. In a professional, journalistic sense, this was probably the best thing I could’ve done for my resume. But for the sake of community and quality of life, this would be one of the most rewarding decisions I ever made.
I never expected to make some of my best friends at this newspaper. It was easy for me to feel out of place — I lacked the boldness, knowledge and cleverness that I saw in my fellow editors. I wanted to make myself part of the group but without trying too hard, and the best way I felt I could do so was by pulling pranks on the other editors — some that may have gone too far (sorry about your butt, Raymond).
Thankfully, these people have a sense of humor, and I wasn’t fired for creating a toxic workspace. In fact, they welcomed me with open arms, creating the most accepting space I’ve found on this campus. And as they welcomed me into their hearts, they found a special place of their own in mine.
Without their support, I never would have grown from being daunted by writing to embracing it. By pushing me outside of my comfort zone and having more faith in my abilities than I did, they encouraged me to pursue stories I felt incapable of covering, validated my ideas and put me in my final position of features editor, giving me control over a whole section and a team of writers. They saw in me what I never saw in myself, and I’m forever grateful for that.
I’m not good at goodbyes, and I tend to bury any sentimental feelings with facts and humor. But if there’s ever a time to feel nostalgic, now’s the moment.
I will never forget the wild and almost-too-detailed stories shared in between fits of tearful laughter at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday nights (Thursday mornings?). I won’t forget sitting on leather chairs with the other editors in a random Baltimore coffee shop, sharing a comfortable silence as we each read books borrowed from the shelf behind us and sipped hot tea. I won’t forget newsroom naps, birthday celebrations at Milano’s, chasing last-minute stories around the city and our adviser’s “don’t get arrested” texts.
Here’s to Duke staff — past, present and future. To Paula, one of the women I most admire and look up to, and whose encouragement has made me the journalist I am today. To the Duquesne Media Department and its wise, adventurous and ambitious professors.
And, of course, here’s to big J Journalism.
Editor’s Note: Happy Earth Day! <3