It’s a running joke that sports interviews are decidedly uninformative. At best, they involve a string of very sincere platitudes. At worst, they are with Jerome Allen. So the question frequently posed to me is the following: Why would one choose to be a sports journalist?
The standard answer is that we write about sports because we’re interested in people. The stories of players’ wins and losses — on and off the field — help us understand and process our own successes and failures.
I chose to write about sports these last four years thanks to people, but not just the people on Rhodes Field or in the Palestra. That choice goes back to the people in the offices on the second floor of 4015 Walnut St., and like almost anything, if you understand the people then you will understand why they do what they do.
For instance, you’ll understand why a freshman, like me, would join three departments simultaneously in his first semester at Penn. The DP was home to multiple communities that made me valued and wanted almost as soon as I stepped on campus — my time spent with Dan Nessenson, Ben Schneider and Rachel Easterbrook in the copy department and getting training in the design department by the humble, but brilliant Christine Chen is particularly memorable.
But despite all of the platitudinous interviews endured, sports came out ahead when I narrowed my commitments to just one department, mostly because it was just so much fun. My nights (and early mornings) working as an associate sports editor alongside Mike Wisniewski, Sushaan Modi, Megan Soisson and Alyssa Kress remain my quintessential experiences from the DP. I hope they know how much I appreciated, then and now, the ways in which they mentored, encouraged and befriended me.
There’s a tacit expectation that at some point in this column I moralize or hand down some hard-earned wisdom gleaned from spending four years at this place. But in a way, I have already said what’s most important: The people make the experiences at Penn worthwhile. It’s true at the DP, and it’s true everywhere else at Penn.
And taking advantage of that sometimes means stepping outside our carefully groomed, resume-ready, detail-oriented tendencies to see where value truly exists. For instance, Penn students take somewhat perverse pleasure in finding fault with the DP — myself included. As a former copy assistant, I loathe typos. As a former design assistant, I cringe at uninformative graphics. (Seriously, when is someone going to fix those pie charts on that alumni donation story?)
But the DP continues to make mistakes of all varieties, and it will still make them in the future. What Penn students forget is that the DP is a student newspaper. It’s inherently a learning experience, and it sees its editorial staff turn over every year and welcomes a hoard of new freshmen each semester — bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and totally unaware of what a style guide is.
In four years at Penn, I have learned that in the large scheme of things, these mistakes don’t really matter. This fact is obvious to some people, but virtually everyone at Penn is a perfectionist to some small (or very large) extent. We forget that typos can be forgiven.
In my experience, all of the DP’s greatest errors came when we failed to mentor, coach, nurture and befriend our staff members in the right ways — when we failed to provide them with all of the community that I was offered in my time here. Like I said, Penn students are perfectionists: They’ll make a few mistakes along the way, but they will get better.
They don’t write anything, however, if they aren’t drawn into the offices of 4015 Walnut St. in the first place. I wrote about sports for four years (and interviewed Jerome Allen for three of them) because of the people. That sort of experience will always be the DP’s best product.Comments powered by Disqus
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