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A farewell from your “pandemic editor-in-chief”

When I was elected Editor-in-Chief in April of 2020, the world around us swirled with uncertainty, challenges and a thousand questions. As I hand off this position, I gaze back on the past year with wonder. This incredible staff not only made it through this unique school year, but prevailed

I recall hearing about COVID-19 back in February during my tenure as Opinions Editor. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County had just hired a new Emergency Preparedness Director, and I wrote what was, at the time, quite a mundane article about a staffing change. In that article is the statement that “Coronavirus is not an imminent threat to UMBC students.” I went on to write the first of many articles about COVID-19 in March, right before we were all abruptly sent home.

I gave my campaign speech for Editor-in-Chief from my makeshift office (my sibling’s childhood bedroom). I was elected in April of 2020 with the knowledge that I needed to get to work immediately. That summer, I interned at The Baltimore Sun as the editorial intern from 8-5. In the evenings, Sam Adebesin, our content managing editor, and I worked tirelessly to write and create a contingency plan for The Retriever. I could not have succeeded without his incredible organization, insight and wisdom, and for that, and many other things, I am so grateful.

I had grand plans to have staff gatherings, catering, carrying on the traditions of long production days and cup after cup of coffee. I wanted to stand in front of the white board in our production room and have heated discussions about opinion pieces or news of the week. Those things didn’t happen.

But what we learned from this year was the importance of our organization to the student community at UMBC. Even in moments of strife, when schedules got messy and it was easy to get frustrated, we prevailed because we knew how vital it was that students were getting accurate and sharp information. 

So we adapted. We planned weekly meetings for all of the section editors to meet in one (Zoom) room, while they used a spreadsheet living document to stay organized the other days of the week. I established an advisory board, made up of local journalistic experts and a media lawyer, to consult with us on difficult topics. I invited a Baltimore Sun editor to speak to our staff about the art of the interview. I directed our technology team to create a Letter to the Editor form on The Retriever website for students to communicate their own perspectives easily. 

For the first time, our social media team started posting regularly, while also beginning to add alternate text to the images on our website, pursuing accessibility for those who use screen readers. 

All of these achievements were brought to fruition by myself and the editors, managers, staff members and journalists who make up this newspaper. And though you may never have seen our faces, the work that we do has kept and will continue to keep this campus accountable and connected, even during this global disaster.

It does feel genuinely unreal to say goodbye to The Retriever. There are so many people to thank for listening, for working tirelessly by my side and for believing in me. To our advisor, Professor Deborah Rudacille: thank you for advising me, mentoring me and supporting me through this year. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Every single one of our editors astonishes me consistently with their dedication, their wits and their patience. Thank you for your incredible thoughtfulness and commitment, and for laughing at my jokes at our weekly Zoom meetings. I know this year was anything but easy.

To all of the staff members I was only able to meet in passing: you are a huge part of the reason this paper has succeeded. In any other year, I would have been there with you, walking around the newsroom and hearing all of your unique perspectives. Just know your work spoke volumes of how dedicated you have all been to this paper. Thank you.

Thank you to all of the members of our advisory board, who gave invaluable advice that certainly kept us in the lines and kept us on our toes. The longevity of their wisdom will span throughout many editors. Thank you for your generosity and patience.

Thank you to Professor Christopher Corbett, who retired from the position of Retriever advisor last year and who was the reason I joined the paper. Thank you for encouraging me and pushing me to find the scoop. 

Our next Editor-in-Chief, Morgan Casey, is a remarkable journalist with a drive like no other. I couldn’t be more confident in her abilities, not only as the next leader of this paper, but as a competent and driven individual. When the world turned upside down, Morgan’s initiative led her to move from the role of Sports Editor to Interim News Editor, and finally to News Editor where she blossomed and soared. 

As for me, I’ll be heading up north to Brown University to pursue my Master’s in American Studies with a focus in equity and journalism. A huge lesson I’ve taken away from my time as Editor-in-Chief is that we can always be pushing this industry to do better, and I’ll be taking that knowledge I gained here at UMBC with me as I enter my graduate studies.

It has been an incredible opportunity and honour to serve as Editor-in-Chief of The Retriever for this year. I am endlessly grateful and hopeful for the future of the paper, and journalism as a whole.

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