Four-year era comes to close for seasoned newspaper staffer

Claire Bushey Column

September 1998. I walked into my freshman dorm dragging luggage and teary parents I couldn’t wait to be rid of. Five paces inside the door a tall, hairy-looking guy approached me.

“Hi, I’m Denis. You in Medill?”

“Yes.”

“You want to work for the paper?”

“Yes.”

“OK. Go City.”

That brief exchange with future City Editor Denis Theriault came at what I guess was an impressionable moment because here I am, four years later, serving my last day at The Daily in the position I have held all quarter: city editor.

I have worked for the City Desk for seven quarters, which makes me the most senior senior in The Daily’s newsroom. I can practically hear my joints creaking. During that time I have written or edited countless stories about cops, City Council and school boards. I probably think more about the city of Evanston in one day than the average Northwestern student does in four years.

My feelings toward Evanston are ambivalent, a mixture of contempt and admiration. Like many students, I see a city that has welcomed my dollars but never my presence. I see a place that can afford to complain about the prestigious university located in its midst because Northwestern isn’t going anywhere. I see a city hell-bent on having it both ways, whether the issue is NU or the city budget.

But I also see a place striving to maintain diversity in the face of overwhelming economic forces. A place that includes more than a shiny downtown and always has. What most impresses me, though, is how Evanston residents have never shrunk from engaging their community. The vibrancy of civic life here puts apathetic NU students to shame. People really care about what happens in Evanston, which makes it a better place to live.

Nevertheless, saying goodbye to the “college town” that closes down by 8 p.m. will be far easier for me than saying goodbye to the City Desk itself.

I have had the privilege of working with people who define the word dedication. From the first city editor I knew, Katherine Tang Newberger, to Denis, to the reporters I have known and tried to guide this quarter, the steely thread of commitment stretches unbroken. Each day these people start with nothing and turn out a paper. And then they do it again, and again, and again.

As one person immortalized on the newsroom quote board once asked, “How do you guys get out a daily newspaper? That seems like a real pain in the ass.”

Well, it can be. The Daily wouldn’t be the same without the late nights, stress and frustration. But after seven quarters here, I’m proud not only because The Daily made me a better journalist, but because I contributed to something important on this campus while I was here. The Daily represents the efforts of students who have sacrificed to inform their community about the events of the day. I believe that is a worthy way to have spent my college years.

The hardest part of saying goodbye to The Daily is realizing the newspaper will still come out without me. The third floor of Norris University Center will not slow because I am no longer there. Leaving means slipping into the ranks of Those Who Have Gone Before, remembered until they are no more than names, and then just bylines on faded papers. Although accepting that reality is difficult, it is also oddly comforting. The ink may fade, but my place in The Daily’s tradition cannot be erased. I am one person in a chain stretching unbroken as far as memory and imagination allow.

Last night when I was drunk and maudlin, a soupy hazard to all those around me, I cried because The Daily could go on without me. Today I wake up and smile because The Daily can go on without me.