Many of my non-Crimson friends think doing FM is tantamount to
sadomasochism (with me on the abuse-receiving end, obviously). FM seems
to chew the execs up every Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night, and spit
us back out Wednesday morning a little unshowered and a lot
sleep-deprived. Even when we leave 14 Plympton, FM follows us home,
making demands via e-mail and haunting our dreams.
But there’s a number of very real reasons I kept coming back for more. FM has been the most challenging, exhilarating, frustrating, and educational experience of my life at Harvard. I’m not a journalism junkie, and I certainly don’t have journalistic aspirations, but being at 14 Plympton has kind of been an embedded journalistic experience: I observed the “pros,” I learned about what we’re supposed to do, and occasionally I contributed a bit.
When I was a naïve, wide-eyed freshman in a bare-bones FM comp (oh, how things don’t change), I learned from my editors and from my news-comping, soon-to-be-blockmate. Amit R. Paley ’04 taught me how to make an FTM work and how to stand up to a source. When I did a research assistant stint for Parker R. Conrad ’02-’03, he treated me like someone who deserved to hear his thoughts about where his scrutiny was going. I knew nothing about the administration, about preregistration, about how university politics worked—but boy, did I learn fast when someone older bothered to cultivate my knowledge.
The more I put into The Crimson, the more I gained—and from observation (and numerous professional interviews), that’s the experience of everyone else too. But besides being smart and dedicated, in the abstract, it always, always helps to know a couple of the people who are currently in power. This straight-from-Taiwan, formerly-teetotaling, deadly earnest girl never had those social networks to tap.
So how did I get some of the requisite skills to being a semi-competent chair? I was horribly persistent and wrote a scrut. I learned so much in my editing sessions with Rachel E. Dry ’04, listening quietly as she and Liz F. Maher ’04 talked in the office. But also, I shot for associate editor and got it. And in my year as associate, I learned: in the production suite, in the newsroom, in the FM office. I watched in awe as Mollie H. Chen ’05 worked her organizational magic, and as Sarah M. Seltzer ’05 made stories funnier, wittier, more nuanced.
Still (and don’t tell the people who okayed my promotion), I didn’t really know how to edit a long story, or how to find the best angle. Watching and mimicking my co-chair Elizabeth W. Green ’06, one of the most thoughtful people and best writers I have had the pleasure of knowing, certainly helped, but she couldn’t hold my hand. But, in doing, in making mistakes, in occasionally getting things really, really right, the year has gone by. The magazine came out 22 times under Elizabeth, publisher Evan R. Johnson ’06, our amazing beautiful staff of associates, designers, photogs, and me. We published some pretty good stories. And now, I’ve come away from my three-and-a-half years at the magazine a better reporter and writer.
I’ve loved my years here, but it makes me sad to think that someone more talented than me, but less stubborn and less connected, could have dropped away from The Crimson. And as earnest as this may be: here’s to making the building more inclusive. Because it’s a building and an organization that I deeply love.