Four years ago, I was an eager, unaware version of myself with a camera in hand and not a clue of what the world would bring. I made the big move from Chicago to Evanston, immediately leaping into unexpected territories that would establish the person I am today: building new friendships, working for Northwestern Athletics and The Daily Northwestern. I had a mere grasp on what the SPJ Code of Ethics entailed, nor how nitpicky the AP style guide truly was aside from the dreaded online quizzes that we took in 201-1. Admittedly, I’m still learning AP.
Then-Development and Recruitment Editor Kelli Nguyen reached out to me on Facebook in the first week of freshman year, asking me if I was interested in photographing for The Daily. I excitedly wrote back, before asking where The Daily was. I made that premiere venture to the third floor of Norris, sparking an almost daily routine of working in the presence of the most driven group of young storytellers.
From there, I met some of my best friends, idols and teammates for the next twelve quarters. While learning so much along the way about what it means to be a journalist, leader and teammate, I would spend half of my years at Northwestern as a Photo Editor. I wrote, reported, photographed and kept a finger on the pulse of breaking news as best as I could. Ryan Wangman and I investigated for over a quarter to produce an In Focus, just 18 months after writing my first article.
The staff became an extended family to me – such strong connections and support that I could not find in many friendships. We documented history together, from Obama’s Farewell Address, NU men’s first and only March Madness berth, day-to-day happenings on and around campus and so much more.
Glamorous photo assignments aside, I owe so much of who I am, and will become, to the lessons learned at The Daily. The patient and attentive team there invoked messages of accountability, transparency, compassion and commitment. With these, I see all aspects of life through a nuanced lens.
Through the undulating photo staff over the years, my colleagues at the “Photo Fam” provided the filters for this metaphoric lens of life. Allie Goulding and Katie Pach showed me how to lead and how to listen – to others and to myself. Jeffrey Wang taught me how to be gutsy. Lauren Duquette showed me how to believe in myself. Noah Frick-Alofs embodied the consistent reliability of friendship and the actual lens when you needed to borrow the gear. Those who followed our class in the visual team encapsulate the compassionate visual storytelling that Evanston and Northwestern deserve.
My window at The Daily has come and gone, but the lessons remain – the positives, the negatives and the development along the way. With all honesty, I do not miss that brutalist monstrosity that is Norris, though the people and memories it houses are cherished and missed greatly. Saying goodbye in December when I wrapped up my undergrad was bittersweet. The month prior hosted times of reflection on what journalism means and what needs to be done for a more equitable, accessible future of communication.
I still venture up to Evanston from time to time. I found myself getting emotional looking at the cement bunker next to the Lakefill yesterday. To the lessons that no lecture nor classroom could provide, I owe so much to The Daily. Support local news, support student journalists and support one another.