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Farewell column: Editor-in-Chief Julia Arbutus

Even before my first week at The Retriever had ended, I quit.

Julia Arbutus holds the first issue and the second to last issue she published. Photo by Madeline Arbutus.

It was freshman year. I had applied at the recommendation of my friend, one of the Arts and Culture (then called Arts and Entertainment) editors, and when I was not immediately placed in that section, I decided that maybe this journalism thing was just not for me. 

Fast forward four years, and I have written over 85 articles for The Retriever and have held the position of editor-in-chief for two full years. 

Each editor-in-chief imbues The Retriever with their own personality. While it’s probably fair to say that my term has been defined by a more-than-healthy level of skepticism about university processes, I know that I’m also leaving behind a commitment to truth, transparency and a great sense of personal style. 

I’ve given so much of my time in college to this newspaper — 28 issues’ worth — and I can’t imagine what my time here would have been like without it. I’d wake up in the morning thinking about our next issue, our next story, our next meeting, and I’d go to sleep at night knowing that I’d get to do it all again tomorrow.

But running a newsroom does not come without challenges, and suffice to say I feel as if I’ve seen them all. The hardest of them seems to be not being able to have a traditional final production in our newsroom, which is tucked away on the second floor of the University Center (Yes, we do have a physical office, and we’re located in UC 214, immediately above the Chick-fil-A. Please come visit once we’re back on campus).

A typical production begins at 8 a.m., with a ham and cheese croissant and a venti iced vanilla latte with an extra shot of espresso from Starbucks, an order I share with my roommate and fearless News Editor, Johanna Alonso. I meet Madeline, my sharp-witted sister and Production Manager, in the newsroom as we place ads and talk about what’s going on the front page so she can get to designing. 

By 9 a.m., the other editors arrive, and it’s a flurry of ‘But what about this?’ and ‘How long is the Starbucks line?’ and ‘Do we have a staff ed?’ until 8 p.m. when it’s just me and my incredibly perceptive managing editors, Maxi Wardcantori and Natalie Murray, closing out the issue, and we’re tired and we’ve been through the five stages of grief. 

But when that newspaper arrives on Wednesday morning, god is it worth it. 

Student journalism is worth it. 

Over the past two years, we’ve broken stories about campus vandalism and the removal of the physical education requirement. We’ve answered your questions about the Event Center, campus posting policies and funding for student organizations. We’ve covered a lawsuit, student government, countless protests and more recently, the coronavirus pandemic. Most importantly, we’ve done it while handling full course loads, internships, jobs and leadership positions in other student organizations.

I’m proud of what our newsroom has been able to accomplish, and I can’t wait to see what the next editor-in-chief, Anjali DasSarma, does with her time here. As our current Opinions editor and sometimes news reporter, she has already demonstrated an indefatigable dedication to our coverage and to the community we serve. 

To my newsroom, which has changed dramatically with the seasons, thank you for believing in me enough to even elect me in the first place. I know I didn’t strike a formidable presence as a soft-spoken sophomore Arts and Culture editor, but I appreciate you seeing in me what I now see in myself. 

To my faculty advisors, both Professor Corbett and Professor Rudacille, thank you for answering my almost-constant emails and for always being on call if I needed some advice. We would not have the paper we do without your overwhelming support and guidance. 

To the students of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County: you are the reason why we even put out a newspaper in the first place. Keep demanding more, from your administrators, from your student government, from your student newspaper, from each other. 

Over the past two years, I’ve seen students who didn’t register journalism as a career option begin writing for The Retriever and completely change their career path. That alone speaks to how powerful our work can be and how special this newspaper is. 

I myself am leaving to pursue my own career as a reporter. I’ve accepted an internship at The Capitol Forum this summer and will head to the University of Maryland, College Park in the fall for my Master’s of journalism. 

It’s been an honor to grow and learn with The Retriever over the past four years.  

Thanks for reading.

Julia Arbutus, Editor-in-Chief, Volumes 53-54