Closson: Feeling hope — and pressure — as The Daily’s new EIC

Troy Closson, Editor in Chief

Three years ago, I rode Norris’ elevator up to The Daily’s third-floor newsroom — and I couldn’t wait to join. I dreamt of ending up on ESPN one day, and I thought The Daily would help me get there.

But for a long time though, I didn’t want to be here. I wasn’t enjoying being in our office, I hadn’t bonded with other people in the newsroom and I didn’t feel like this was a student group I wanted to be a part of.

In my first few weeks at Northwestern, I was struggling to figure out where I fit in on campus. After coming from a much more racially diverse hometown and high school, I was still processing what it was like being one of the few black students in most spaces on campus.

At the time, our newsroom was one of those places. I was only the black student on staff and nearly all of our top editors were white when I joined. Conversations about diversity and inclusion were often tabled for later, or felt like one-off, “let’s pat ourselves on the back” type things.

So I quit.

And for the first half of Winter Quarter during my freshman year, I stayed off our staff. For real.

But after talking with a friend, I decided to come back. Instead of writing for sports or campus, I joined the opinion desk. I had things on my mind — topics that didn’t make it in the paper, concerns that went unaddressed at NU. I wanted to talk about things that mattered to me, especially in the context of my own identity.

I’m leading with this story because it’s central to how I’m approaching my new role as editor in chief. I understand what it’s like to feel unwelcome in our newsroom — it’s personal to me. And one of my biggest priorities this quarter is making our newsroom a place where new staff members don’t feel that way I once felt.

We’ll be holding info sessions for students of color and those who identify as LGBTQ+ early this fall, so people can hear directly from staff members who share specific identities and learn about their real experiences in this newsroom.

Our diversity and inclusion team is also the largest it’s been since it was formed last winter. And I’ll be working with them to make sure we continue making our coverage of marginalized communities across campus and in Evanston is a higher priority.

Over the past year and a half, the environment in our newsroom has begun to shift from where it was when I first walked up to the third floor. We’re starting to become a place where more students can see themselves represented — in our newsroom, as sources and in the stories we cover.

For most of my time here, I never wanted to be editor in chief of this paper. For a long time, I couldn’t see myself staying around long enough to have this opportunity. And even when things got better and I kept coming back, I still didn’t want to do this.

I care a lot about improving our coverage of Northwestern and Evanston’s black communities and making our newsroom a space where more people who look like me can feel comfortable. But a large part of why I didn’t want to apply was because I knew how much pressure there would be — and more so, how much I’d place on myself — to be perfect in this job.

It’s not lost on me that in The Daily’s more than 135 years of publication, there’s been a grand total of two black editors in chief before me. Over the next two quarters, there will inevitably be gaps in our coverage. But when there are, I hope everyone reading this knows how much I care about hearing about those issues and fixing the problems you see. We still have a long way to go, but we’re only where we are now because of a small group of people — both inside and out of the newsroom — raising their concerns.

I hope regardless of what you knew about The Daily before, you approach this fall with a fresh mindset. We’re not ignoring this paper’s history of miscovering and overlooking marginalized communities at all, but rather using that to inform the areas we focus on as we start a new school year.

This year, I hope the changes we’ve made internally become more visible on the outside. And until that happens, know that my biggest focus is on ensuring everyone reading this paper and walking into our newsroom won’t feel the same way I did about The Daily three years ago.

Troy Closson
Editor in Chief

Troy Closson is a Medill senior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.