It didn’t take me long to fall in love with The Daily Pennsylvanian. It was election night in 2016, and as a young, wide-eyed reporter, I saw student editors running through hallways, making high-stakes decisions, doling out breaking assignments, yelling at each other over the intercom. It was the picturesque movie scene I longed for when touring colleges. A group of students drawn together by their love for the DP, and driven by their commitment to its mission. I knew I wanted to be part of it, and I’ve spent the three and a half years since trying to get people to feel the same way.
I know when I look back at these four years of my life, the image I conjure up of what college was like will be a freeze-frame of the DP newsroom. I’ve sacrificed a lot for the DP — hours and hours of sleep, and socially and academically, too — but I leave now with more than I could have ever imagined. A journalism education, lifelong friends and mentors, the experience of running my own newsroom. The DP taught me to listen, to make tough decisions, to put the interests of a group before my own.
There have been many times over the course of the past four years that I’ve thought about what I would write in my senior column. I thought about the editors who came before me, and how they must have been in similar positions. How do I do justice to an institution that has been instrumental to making these past four years some of the best in my life? How do I say thank you?
I realize, though, that my position is also unique. My graduation from Penn coincides with Eric Jacobs’ retirement from the DP after four decades as general manager. From the start of my time at Penn, I’ve known Eric to be the DP’s guiding light. Not everyone sees his shadow behind the curtain, but those who do can attest that he is the force behind everything we do at the DP. His legacy will shine for decades to come.
I don’t pretend to know the extent of Eric’s impact at Penn, the broader journalism world, or even just at the DP. But I know the difference he has made in my life, and I know everything good that has happened at the DP in the last 40 years is in some way because of him. And I want to use my senior column to say thank you.
I feel lucky to have met Eric early on. My editor first introduced me to him when I was a reporter, and I couldn’t believe his wealth of knowledge. Eric covered Penn’s administration as an undergraduate in the late ’70s, and he has since watched as the University, its campus, and its policies evolved over time. I was young and one of hundreds on staff, but Eric never turned me away if I asked for context on a new story assignment. When I was elected news editor and then senior news editor, Eric helped me with those transitions, too. When I was executive editor, there were few people whose support and guidance I relied on more.
I’m always surprised to hear there are people at the DP who don’t know Eric, but that just shows how good he is at his job. He gives editorial guidance when approached, but would never undermine student editors. He offers detailed solutions to problems, but lets editors present them as their own. He never makes it seem as if anything is more important than listening to students, but will still be working at his desk when I leave the office at 3 a.m. He takes pride in student successes and doesn’t expect credit. He believes in his students, and he believes in student journalism.
There’s a recurring joke at the DP that every year, a new board comes along thinking the problems it faces and the circumstances it is in are somehow unprecedented, and that it is Eric’s job to explain to the new student leaders why they’re wrong. I think this year, however, it’s safe to say they would be right. But Eric’s legacy extends beyond his institutional memory of the DP – it lives on in the service to the organization, the community he has built, and the strong student leaders who are equipped to handle any obstacle their board might face.
To the 136 — I am blown away by you all every day. I imagine this is not what you expected your board term to be like, and no one can understand the unique challenges you are facing. But find strength and support in one another, and know that the work you are doing is truly making a difference. The entire Penn community is grateful to you, and I am so proud to be able to call myself a DP alum.
SARAH FORTINSKY is a College senior from Larchmont, N.Y., studying political science and journalistic writing. She served as the Executive Editor on the 135th Board of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Previously, she was the Senior News Editor on the 134th Board, and a News Editor on the 133rd Board, as well as a beat reporter, copy editor, and video associate.
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