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Advice on how to be editor-in-chief of ‘The Daily Targum’

Somewhere, deep within Facebook’s graveyard of forgotten posts, there’s a picture of me, smiling, with a Targum in hand. Nothing in the background is distinguishable but Targums –– layers upon layers of Targums –– looking like waves of ink and paper ready to crash down on my unsuspecting body. It was taken on my 22nd birthday, after my roommates decided it would be funny to cover my entire side of the room with that day’s issues. Today, I look back at this picture and reflect on how perfectly it epitomizes my college career: At times, Targums flooded every nook and cranny of my life, but somehow, I didn’t drown. Instead, I look back, smiling.

I began working for The Daily Targum in the fall of my sophomore year, after my friend convinced me to attend a writers’ meeting. She called it quits after writing her first article. I guess you could say that I stayed a bit longer. In the following months, I climbed up the masthead, beginning as a contributing writer, advancing as an associate news editor and finally reaching its peak when I assumed the position of editor-in-chief in February 2014. Three editorial boards, three 17-hour caucuses and three Rice-related scandals later, I’m still afloat. I’m eligible to graduate. I haven’t killed anyone and/or had anyone attempt to kill me. I’m (relatively) sane, and all of my internal organs are still intact. I made it through the most challenging years of my young life, and it was both a pleasure and a chore. But if someone like me –– who’s lost about a dozen of her debit cards, who’s been hospitalized after falling off an LX bus (sober), who still thinks poop jokes are among the upper echelons of comedy –– can survive being editor-in-chief of the Targum, I believe that any of you can too. Here’s how.

Number One: Stand up straight, shoulders back. In order to be initiated into the role of editor-in-chief, you must first be voted into office by the majority of editors from the incoming and outgoing boards. This process is called caucus, a Targum tradition that is, somehow, simultaneously boring and terrifying. During caucus, the candidates for each position must stand in the front of the room and answer questions about this position asked by each of the attendees. When it’s someone else’s turn to go, enjoy the free food and try not to fall asleep. But you, as editor-in-chief, will go first, and you’ll need to stand up straight, shoulders back. Be confident in your demeanor, and in turn, you’ll be respected. This posture must persist even after telling a roomful of editors when the Targum was founded (1869, by the way). Stand up straight when you’re wrongfully accused of bias. Keep your shoulders back when managing a reporter who’s misquoted her source. With the right posture, it’ll be nearly impossible to be pushed down.

Number Two: Be resourceful. The news never sleeps, and you’ll never be warned when a building catches on fire, or let’s say, when someone attacks Rutgers’ entire operating system. Therefore, you’ll need to be quick on your feet and know how to use the tools around you. I realized resourcefulness was integral after my first-ever interview. My source was calling me as I was doing homework in Hardenbergh, and I had no idea what to do. Without a recorder, I opened up FaceTime on my laptop, and frantically blurted out each prepared question, trying not to stutter. Resourcefulness came in handy when I used Twitter to track down the #RU4BlackLives protesters last December, when I somehow scored an interview with author Junot Díaz and when I successfully tricked the student body into believing Rutgers was building a monorail (for the Mugrat, of course).

Number Three: Smile. One of the most important things you can do as editor-in-chief is smile. Smile when a grumpy alumnus is calling to complain about your coverage of the football team. Smile when you need to stay up all night laying out a wrap and writing a paper for class. Smile when you come home at 3 a.m., realize you locked yourself out and go back to the office and sleep in a chair. Positivity reminds both yourself and the team that at the end of the day, everything will be okay as long as you know you've tried your very best. But more importantly, smile because the people you work with deserve it. The Targum brings in a hodgepodge of students from radically different walks of life. These may be people you would have never met otherwise, but when you all are working toward sending the paper to print on time, you find moments when your stories and interests overlap. You will learn from them, and you will form amazing friendships with them, so open yourself to the people around you with a smile.

As much as I would love for every one of you to be hungrily vying for the position of Targum’s editor-in-chief next February, I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But to me, serving as editor-in-chief was more than a job, it was the experience that, as New York Times’ David Brooks puts it, helped me find my calling within my career. On career choice, he writes: “Some people have experiences that turn a career into a calling. These experiences quiet the self. All that matters is living up to the standard of excellence inherent in their craft.” I want to thank everyone who’s helped me listen to this calling. Thank you Board 145, Board 146 and Board 147 for your hard work, dedication, lessons on Illustrator, lessons on relationships, karaoke sessions, pitchers at Corner Tavern and of course, friendships. Thank you to the Board of Trustees for your guidance, and thank you mom and dad for the support. Thank you readers for giving my job a purpose. Thank you all for keeping me afloat. Thank you for allowing me to look back and smile.

Alexandra R. Meier is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies with a minor in anthropology. She is a former Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Targum. 

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