Saying yes and it looks worse than it is: Two lessons learned as editor-in-chief

Margaret Dougherty, Editor-In-Chief

It’s 2:36 a.m. right now and I’m about to write a meta article. I’ve consumed three separate sources of caffeine today: two Starbucks drinks and one strange artificially flavored energy drink that tastes like pure chemicals. I actually found it to be delightful. I’ve just wrapped up putting together The Ionian on InDesign, an Adobe program that helps format the paper. Hours of hard work today (yesterday?) have led me to this point. Yet, as my eyeballs melt staring at the computer screen, I am met with a blank space in the opinion section. I need to write something, but what? I don’t have any opinions. Maybe I’ll just go stream-of-conscious and see what sticks.  

I did not expect to be come editor-in-chief of The Ionian when I first joined the newspaper as a freshman. I figured I could contribute some articles here and there, but I never saw writing as a particular talent of mine. I didn’t think I would spend much of my time focused on the newspaper. Well, I thought wrong. Somehow, two years later I ended up with the top job. I imagine I must have felt similar to how Donald Trump felt when he won the election.  

If there’s one thing I have not learned in my 21 years of life, it’s how to say no. So, when I was offered the position of editor-in-chief I was tempted to say no, but I obviously said yes. And I am so glad I did. That was my first lesson learned as editor-in-chief: never turn down a promising opportunity just because you’re scared. You may never get such a chance again and there’s no way of finding out what it entails without just holding your breath and jumping into the deep end. I’ve found that the editor-in-chief position entails a lot of work. A lot. But I’ve also found that it entails great journalism experience, interesting leadership opportunities and, coolest of all, amazing new friendships.  

Let’s move back to the present. I’ve been in this office – with brief interruptions for class and meals – since 9:00 a.m. Every other Tuesday I follow this routine on the infamous “deadline day.” Deadline days never go 100% smoothly. Disregarding that the work itself can be quite tedious, there is always a whole host of problems to make things more difficult. Sometimes an event gets cancelled last minute and we are left without enough news articles. Sometimes the computer freezes, crashes or loses all our progress. Sometimes the heat in the Ionian office is outrageously high and I can’t figure out how to turn it down. Sometimes I break out in hives from the stress. Deadline days are always fun. 

I like to make jokes to my friends about the pressure of deadline day, but the secret is…I actually really enjoy it. It’s a strange mixture of mental instability, adrenaline and satisfaction when it’s all over. At the beginning of the day the amount of work seems insurmountable. Yet every week we manage to pull through. That’s the second lesson I’ve learned as editor-in-chief: it’s not always as bad as it looks.  

I try to apply both of these lessons in my daily life. I try to say yes to opportunities even if they scare me. I also try to look at things in perspective and realize that it isn’t always as bad as it seems. For example, I said yes to writing this article. Coming to its conclusion, I have also realized it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be in the beginning.