VOTE YES: Targum changed course of my career
Every three years, Rutgers' student newspaper, The Daily Targum, the second-oldest and one of the largest college newspapers in the country, asks undergraduate and graduate students to vote in favor of refunding the paper. This process, called a referendum, gives students the choice to continue paying the $11.25 newspaper fee on their term bills every semester.
That's asking for $22.50 from every student for one year. That's two orders of potachos from Stuff, three popcorn buffalo chicken crisps from Hansel or one parking ticket from Rutgers' Department of Transportation Services.
But to the Targum, and to me, a former Targum news editor, that $22.50 is a guarantee that future reporters and editors have a place to learn and work. It's a place to find their colleagues and friends. It's a place to maybe find their calling when they least expected it. It's a place they, like me, can call their second home.
I joined the Targum at the start of my sophomore year, when I entered as a transfer student. I was convinced it'd be a great way to look well-rounded when I would apply to law school — I'd maybe write a few stories, add them to my resumé and be on my way. (Two years later, I'm still a little inwardly aghast at the thought I wanted to go to law school).
Two months into my sophomore year, I was silently hooked. My heart jumped when my phone trilled with a text message asking if I wanted to take a story. I scrawled interview questions in the margins of my class notes. I thought about different ways to phrase my lede as I worked the lunch shift at my server job.
I denied that journalism was what set my heart alight, pigheadedly insistent that law school was where I should go. I told that to myself over and over — as I sat on the floor of Hickman Hall and interviewed one of Camden's mayoral candidates, as I interviewed a nuclear physicist on a bus rumbling across Route 18, as I trekked across campus through the rain in my server's uniform to interview the mayor of Fukui, Japan.
The summer following my sophomore year, I couldn’t shake the feeling that journalism meant something more to me than law did, or probably ever would. I gave up on filing EB-5 applications at my law firm internship. I came home, called my mom sitting on a sidewalk curb on Union Street, and told her I was going to be a journalist. I expected her to temporarily humor me for a few minutes, but then tell me to get back to figuring out a problem I had been having in one section of the LSAT.
“Okay,” she started. I remember the sun beat down on the top of my head that July as I held the phone to my face a little tighter and waited for the rest of her response. “Then get to it.”
Nearly two years later, I’m on my way.
I’ve written a fair amount. I’ve talked to more people. I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I’ve won some stuff. I’ve spent an entire spring break glued to my dining table working on a single story, subsisting almost entirely on trail mix and the fear that I’d be scooped on a story (I wasn’t).
I’ve done all I can do for the Targum — I've spent an average of eight hours in the office at least five days a week during the last year, edited hundreds of stories and slept the occasional night in my desk chair. And the Targum’s been there for me from the start by giving me reason to think differently and feel electrified, and that hasn't stopped.
But the fuel behind the Targum is its staff — and they’re better than any stories, sources or awards. I’ve met some of the brightest and kindest students and journalists there. They’re the people I’ve written and edited with, and the ones who’ve taught me it’s better to have fries and be happy than to have a salad and be sad. When I want to see faces that make me feel like I’m finally coming home after a long trip, the double doors of 204 Neilson St. are always a welcome sight.
I’m grateful to the Targum for a lot of things. I wish I could write two-and-a-half years of memories and lessons learned into a post and expect people to be patient enough to put up with it all. But there’s cat videos to watch, pictures of Doug the Pug that need to be liked and National Enquirer comment ruckus about Ted Cruz that demands rapt attention and snacks. I hope, though, that you’ll support the Targum and vote "yes" during its referendum any day from now until Friday, April 15.
Katie Park is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is a former news editor of The Daily Targum.
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