After 100 issues, an editor says farewell

by Ryan Catalani / Beacon Staff • April 30, 2015

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Beacon editor in chief Ryan Catalani reflects on four years and over 100 issues at the Beacon.
Beacon editor in chief Ryan Catalani reflects on four years and over 100 issues at the Beacon.

There’s something beautiful about emerging from the Beacon office on a Thursday morning—having finally finished the print edition—and seeing the sunrise. After being in an underground office for over 12 hours, after the last dregs of Starbucks lattes have long dried up, after the red-inked proofs have amassed in untoward corners, I find the first pastel rays that stretch across the Common refreshing and particularly symbolic. It’s a new day, a fresh news cycle, a moment of peace before we dive back in.

When I first joined the Beacon—during my freshman orientation, before school had even officially started—I didn’t imagine I would stick with the Beacon for four continuous years, let alone become the editor-in-chief one day. I still remember going to the Thinking Cup after the Beacon’s orientation week info session with a few of the paper’s top editors, walking through the Common to discuss the upcoming year. A bird decided to use my shoulder as its toilet, and as we scrambled to look for a napkin, one editor said, “Well, at least it’s good luck.”

But now, over 100 issues later, when the next dawn I have to look forward to is that of the next generation of editors, I’ve come to a moment of reflection. It’s bittersweet to realize—really, confront the reality—that one chapter of my life, so densely packed and meaningful, is finally coming to a close. More than anything else, though, I’m filled with gratitude.

The Beacon runs on trust. Trust is the fundamental currency of news organizations; if readers don’t believe in a publication’s reporting, then it cannot be effective. But a certain type of trust is essential to our internal operations, too. For me, it’s nicely encapsulated by Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005. “Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice,” said Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple. “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

I’m grateful because, together with my friends and colleagues at the Beacon, we have developed a special bond that fosters this trust. In the minutiae of editing and journalistic jargon, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture—the humanity of the newspaper. Articles are more than archives: They transport stories, the triumphs and tears of real people affected in real ways. Each verb is a crystallization of history, each adjective is a judgment, and each sentence is a compromise between action, perception, and representation. 

Balancing this tension, even for a publication like the Beacon, requires a trust among, and dedication from, editors and reporters that truly moves me. We share a camaraderie that can only be forged through such intense, sustained, and consistent collaboration.

The writer Mario Osorio once said that if he could change the world, he would change the educational system “to give young people all the tools they need to survive in harmony, compañerismo”—fellowship—“and solidarity in their community.” In some small way, this is what I have hoped to accomplish at the Beacon, too.

I sincerely believe that by bringing together a wealth of diverse voices, by allowing us—writers and readers alike—to learn a little more about our community every week, by striving to report on even the most difficult topics, the Beacon has the ability to make Emerson a better place. It’s a role that we can never purport to perfectly or completely fulfill—one that we are always learning to better achieve. But it’s a duty that has been close to my heart throughout my time at the Beacon.

After eight semesters, going down to the newspaper office on Wednesday afternoons to begin the final production process has become second nature. Entering Piano Row, descending the stairs, and walking to the end of the hall to enter our windowless basement workplace—which I’ve affectionately nicknamed the dungeon—is so habitual that, next Wednesday, after this final print issue of the semester is published, I’m sure my feet won’t know where else to turn.

After editing thousands of photos and articles—which comprise, by my count, over a million words—revising and reviewing stories, visual and written, for the Beacon has become a natural part of my day. Opening my laptop, editing an article on Google Docs, and combing through each paragraph, sentence, and word is so instinctive that, after commencement, when at long last we pass the baton to the Beacon’s next generation, I’m sure my hands will feel oddly idle.

And after working so constantly and closely with nearly 100 contributors and editors, the perpetual, frenetic chatter has become almost comforting. Responding to texts, replying to emails, and checking the seemingly unending stream of notifications from our group messages is now so habitual that, in just a few weeks, I’m sure the hush will bring with it a strange disquiet.

The Hawaiian word “kuleana” is today generally translated to mean “responsibility.” But in the truest sense of the word, it means something deeper than a household chore. It connotes a sense of collective responsibility to something larger than oneself, and further, a sense of privilege for having that responsibility. I feel my work at the Beacon these past four years has been my kuleana. And I know that while, by the time this is published, my last Beacon sunrise will have already passed, a new day—a different chapter—will just have begun.