Sports editor reflects on reporting, leadership, memes

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Jori Epstein has worked in sports, copy and opinion since fall 2012. Currently the sports editor, she has also covered football, basketball, softball, track and cross country. She spent 1,178 days (yes, she counted) on staff.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

I wanted to join the Texan as soon as I committed to UT. The decision: Which section? I felt unqualified to offer opinions when I barely knew my way around campus. News reporting was tempting, but I heard news reporters had to miss class. I don’t like missing class.

So I applied to sports — and copy, too, on a whim. 

I was at a loud party when the copy desk chief left me a voicemail. Minutes later, my email buzzed: I scored a sports position, too.

“Guess what???” I screamed to my parents on the phone. They couldn’t hear me over the music.

I went outside to tell them the news. We celebrated. It was the first of several thousand calls home with Texan updates. Mom, Dad, Daley, Jason and Zach — thanks for still answering.

The Texan has taught me a ton through 1,178 days on staff. Three lessons stand out.

1) Reporting: The Texan will teach you to report. It let me grow from 180-word recaps to 800-word features. It allowed me to tell of devastating hurricanes, Special Forces service and deceased spouses. We transitioned from printed, one-way writing to multi-platform, interactive reporting. Because of the Texan, I sometimes dream about SIDs. I try not to.

The Texan allowed me to make countless mistakes, too — sassy remarks to offensive linemen, trying to cover games I couldn’t attend and editing reporters too harshly. I missed a lot of deadlines. The Texan understood. Each time, it pushed me to be better.

2) Leadership: I once received emails from two Texan editors within hours. 

“Your 10 worst headlines,” one read.

“Thank you for everything y’all have done — let’s celebrate with candy,” the other said.

The juxtaposition was so stark it seemed almost like a prank. The Texan wasn’t perfect. We learned from each imperfection.  

3) Working with people: The Texan gave me incredible coworkers. I owe them thanks. Thanks to my early editors — Christian, Chris, Stefan and Garrett — for teaching and mentoring me. Thank you Evan for teaching me rejection. Thank you to my current staff for working tirelessly, leaving your comfort zone and reading budget meme to meme. Thank you everyone who accommodated my religious practices. From Garrett creating the football columnist position because of Shabbat to Jacob covering Steve Patterson’s resignation on Rosh Hashana — I can’t express my appreciation adequately.

I never thought I’d leave the Texan before graduation. I made concerted efforts to bash early retirees in hopes that we’d all ride out into the sunset together (or still be in the basement graduation weekend pondering why we don’t have jobs). 

But thesis calls, and I’m ready — excited, even — to answer. The Texan taught me sometimes to say no and step back. Thanks, Texan, for all you’ve taught me.

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