Brockway: To the people I’ve learned from along the way

Ella Brockway, Daily Senior Staffer

Graduation Issue 2021

The line that “the journey is the destination” is easy to overuse. You hear it plenty of times in sports — it’s not about the fact that you lost on a goalkeeper penalty in the Europa League Final, or had your buzzer-beater out-buzzer-beatered in the national championship game. (They still hurt.) It’s about what you learned on the way there.

My career at the Daily sports desk started not on the sidelines or in a crowded press box, but sitting alone at a table in Norris, watching a slightly-delayed stream of a game happening a few states away, with a blank stat sheet and a Starbucks iced tea.

It was October 3, 2017, and I was covering a men’s soccer game against Notre Dame. The older editors on the sports desk said I could come watch in the newsroom, but I was a freshman too nervous that I would mess up in their presence.

There was also the fact that at that point, I’d always seen sports journalism as a solitary endeavor. In high school, I’d essentially run a one-woman sports desk on my seven-person newspaper, and when I freelanced for a local site covering sports, I was both the only woman and the only person under 30. I thought sports journalism, and journalism more broadly, was something I was meant to do on my own.

The Daily changed that. I started to feel like journalism wasn’t something I had to or should do on my own anymore. I found a community of people who shared a passion for journalism and making a product we could all be proud of. I moved my game-watching location from my dorm room to the newsroom — still with a Norbucks iced tea, of course — and my editors and colleagues would go on to become some of my best friends.

I laughed; smiled; cried; convinced the newsroom to play HQ nightly; traveled around the country following both winning and losing teams; drove through the Midwest on road trips to Iowa and Minnesota and places in between; argued about the baffling style guide of the New York Times sports section; bylined many a story about uniforms or the Royal Family.

But most of all, I learned from the people I met along the way. I was surrounded every day by an incredibly talented team of writers, editors, photographers, designers and creators at The Daily. I found unexpected communities in the student sports journalists I met on Twitter and at our small but mightily supportive Association for Women in Sports Media chapter. My interactions with coaches and athletes turned the world of Northwestern athletics into a classroom of its own.

That’s not to say my experience at The Daily was perfect. Five years and 15 quarters separated my stint as sports editor in the spring of 2019 and that of Ava Wallace, the last woman to hold that position before me. From 1997 until 2020, only two of The Daily’s 25 Gameday editors were women.

I’m proud of the improvements that have been made — three women covered last weekend’s lacrosse Final Four for The Daily, and there are more women working across the different Northwestern student sports media outlets now than at any time in my four years here.

But as the recent events on this campus and in the sports world more broadly have repeatedly shown us, there’s so much more work that needs to be done to support and elevate women and minorities in sports media, and in sports in general.

The last game I covered for The Daily was this year’s Citrus Bowl in January. As I had for the Senior Day finale against Illinois and the Big Ten Championship Game earlier that season, I covered it from my desk in my childhood bedroom in New Jersey. It was similar situationally to how I’d covered my first-ever game for The Daily, but even though that was the same, I wasn’t.

These last four years have shaped me as a reporter, a writer and a person, and so much of that has been thanks to The Daily. I’ll always be grateful for that.

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Twitter: @ellabrockway