Editor’s note: A 30 column is a chance for departing senior staffers to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in The Daily Texan’s basement office. The term comes from the old typesetting mark (–30–) to denote the end of a line.
In the fall semester of my freshman year, I entered the basement office that calls itself “The Daily Texan” and signed up for a challenge I did not understand. I thought I had signed up to write stories for the next two semesters. In reality, I had signed up for this paper to confront my vision of my career and myself in a simple but powerful way: with a solid deadline, three times a week. Those who have had the privilege of facing this challenge know that only the most solidly-planted visions and career aspirations can truly fulfill the challenge of offering an organization the best quality work each and every week.
During my first year, I did not meet that challenge. I thought I would be a regular daily reporter and that the Texan was the first step to that vision. My professors, friends, family and advisers all seemed to believe I could make this vision a reality. But the organization that is The Daily Texan, the collection of words and stories that students test themselves against each semester, did not mince words. When I looked at my byline, I knew I wasn’t looking at the best I had to offer. I knew the paper was telling me I could do better, that I could find a more suitable niche in the world of hard-hitting news.
So I tried. With the Texan’s unyielding truthfulness in one hand and a few course credits in the other, I made the difficult decision to switch from journalism to computer science. The Texan had shown me I was better with numbers and investigations and exploring structures than the daily demands of a news desk, and, with its guidance, I took the leap.
A year later, when I was back on my feet, I knew I had to go back — back to the same mentor that first told me I didn’t have it figured out. I had to know if my new persona, “Miles Hutson – data reporter,” was any more solid than the last. This time, The Daily Texan reaffirmed my vision. As head of digital projects, I got to experience the rewards of being part of an organization that gives students the freedom to test their ideas in front of a live audience.
This semester, The Daily Texan gained its own interactives section, four new interactive features and a renewed commitment to its online presence. When I think of my time at The Daily Texan, I won’t think in abstract or grandiose terms, because neither does the Texan. I’ll think of the paper that takes students, takes ideas and, without exception, distills a basic truth about their successes and failures. As I open up the same software that I placed my first story in freshman year, and type in my final written piece, I can’t help but be grateful that the Texan made me part of that process.