As the Co-Editor of my school newspaper, the Wagnerian, I have dealt with many difficult situations. We have to keep on top of deadlines, make sure our editors and writers are doing their share, cover tragedies like Superstorm Sandy, question how to accurately cover controversial topics, make sure there is no bias, and the list goes on and on and on. Big things happen, even on a small campus like Wagner’s, and we find ways to cover them accurately.
But, no story can ever compare to the one I had to write this past week. No tragedy on campus was bigger or more difficult to cover than this one. Never have I ever had such an emotional reaction to what I had to write this past week. But, never have I ever been so proud of the work my staff and I did this past week.
A week ago today, our campus came to its knees. No news had ever shocked us like this before. We had dealt with a student death before, but this was new territory completely different from any story we ever had to cover before.
The death of a fellow student is hard to imagine. The death of a well-known, fierce, born leader who just spent his summer organizing and carrying out a successful freshmen orientation is even harder to imagine. And learning details about a suicide note and a bottle of pills found next to that senior theatre major’s body was the worst part of it all.
The news came in bits. First, a fellow student was missing. Next, his body was found and students rushed to be together in the main theatre to support one another. Later, an article was released with the terrible details and students were in denial.
But lastly, students and faculty came together in a beautiful and touching candlelight vigil that same evening. And although emotional, to see students in a giant circle surrounding a smaller circle of senior theatre majors and those closest to him, was an empowering image. I am impressed with close-knit this campus us, and that we can withstand any type of major tragedy, from hurricanes to losing a student.
As soon as I heard the news, my journalistic instinct kicked in. My Co-Editor and I were already brainstorming ideas for the newspaper and knew it had to be done perfectly, to truly honor and remember our fellow classmate. Designing pages of photos and memories was hard. But writing a news article to show the reaction of our campus, in addition to the details leading up to the discovery of the student’s dead body, was heart-wrenching.
It was my duty to not only my classmate, but to everyone who knew him, to fully capture his spirit and present the information in a sensitive and positive manner, but still stay within the guidelines of news writing. With the help of our newspaper adviser, and several drafts later, I finally had an article I was proud of. I became even more proud when the roommate of the student helped to correct small details and was glad with how the article and the tribute pages turned out.
Despite my multiple mini-breakdowns from the stress, as well as the emotional toll it took on me, it was worth it. But, then came the harder part…the headline.
When my college picks up the paper later this week, they will first read, “A curtain closed too soon” underneath a great photograph of a yellow banner of memories and photos hanging in our student union. I can only hope that this article, and the pages dedicated to him, will be loved and appreciated by many.