“Your DP op-ed was beautiful.”
“HOT DAMN THAT COLUMN.”
“That was a really great article.”
“You are amazing.”
As my phone buzzed, so did I. These are real texts from friends that I received over the past semester. These messages, mixed with in-person conversations, peppered with emails from professors and students praising my work, have provided me with more satisfaction than I would like to admit.
But, did validation come mostly from the columns that I spent the most time on, or that I was proudest of? Nope. And thus began my biweekly existential writer's crisis.
As I started writing for The Daily Pennsylvanian last fall, I was excited to find my voice. I had read each veteran columnist’s articles week after week, and each had a unique, identifiable persona. Amy wrote about tender, relatable issues, in a sweet, delicate, makes-you-cry kind of style. James reflected on a wide range of student issues with argumentation so comprehensive that you felt like he was beating you in a debate. And Cam developed emphatic and impassioned, but well-reasoned arguments about campus issues week after week.
Surely enough, it didn’t take long before I realized that I loved writing about issues in higher education, like admissions, administration, and curricula, in a dramatic and occasionally snarky tone (my favorite pastime is bullying Penn’s administration). But among these columns that contributed to the build-up of my writer’s “specialty,” I couldn’t resist squeezing out a couple of gooey stories from the heart.
Did I do a lot of reporting for these stories? Not really. Did I research and source a ton? Nah. Did these take as long to craft as the investigative, “journalistic” columns? Nope.
But did these get lapped up the most by readers? Definitely.
After “Home is not a place” was published, I almost hired a publicist with the amount of fan mail that was drowning my mail box (disclaimer — just kidding, but my friends were being extremely supportive, so I was a happy camper).
Still, I knew that I was even prouder of the one I was working on for next week: “Fraternity pledging needs to end.” I spent more time researching and reporting for that article than studying in my brief stint in a computer science class this semester.
However, this time, when I went to the U.S. Post Office to check the P.O. Box I had newly minted, alas, it was barren (disclaimer — just kidding, but my friends were not as supportive, so I was a less happy camper. Also, don’t actually send me physical mail. I don’t have enough fans for a P.O. Box. Yet.).
Why? These stories were easier to read. They were relatable.
So, what was I supposed to write about? What was the purpose of being a DP columnist? For me, it was to serve the readers, deliver the stories that matter, and grow a little from the experience.
By pushing myself to swap personal stories for reporting, I’m achieving all of the above. I want to showcase and represent student opinion to the administration. I want to make my perspectives more robust and substantiated.
But most importantly, researching and reporting allows for existing, decentralized information to be more accessible for readers. The opinion pages should help us understand and make sense of the world, and it is my duty to do the investigations so readers don’t have to.
This column, which I didn’t dare publish during my normal publishing schedule, is totally uncharacteristic, and I’m going to keep it that way.
Don’t worry, readers, you might hear from Lucy again at some point. But for now, she’s moving aside, giving the spotlight to a new Fresh Take.
LUCY HU is a College sophomore from Auckland, New Zealand, studying political science. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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