When I was first an opinion editor, way back in the spring of aught-nine, I learned the number one rule in dealing with writers: Don’t let them write goodbye columns.
This is the cardinal sin of schmaltz, allowing writers to wax nostalgic for 650 words on their last appearance in the paper.
The really smug writers will write smarmy, self-aware goodbye columns, which briefly acknowledge the transgression before cleverly misdirecting readers with a funny turn of phrase.
Of course, I learned other things too.
Unless you’re a fantastic writer, it’s best to put the opinion up front, the call to action in the last paragraph and sprinkle phrases like “Sisyphean battle,” “cavalier disregard” or “transgression” throughout.
I also learned by reading other Daily Trojan writers. For example, trying to be funny or clever is a slippery slope, because there are very few Laura Reeves or Mike Middlehurst-Schwartzes in the world, and most of us are, sadly, not them.
Most importantly, I learned the simple fact that USC needs the Daily Trojan, though it might not like to admit it.
In my four years with the paper, the DT has faced the ire of the Greek community, feminists, Democrats, Republicans and the violently apathetic, to name a few.
It’s the lot of college media to draw more heat than most student organizations, comparable, perhaps, only to Undergraduate Student Government in terms of backlash.
Anonymous online commenters accuse college papers of bias, ineptitude or laziness, (I’ve personally gotten “frivolous drivel,” which is admirable for its assonance if nothing else), without realizing the students who run the paper are putting in 50-hour work weeks and taking their precious few naps with the Associated Press Stylebook as a pillow.
The DT is not without its flaws. As it became more and more obvious that people who worked primarily within the print model were being viewed as beeper salesmen or telegraph editors, the Daily Trojan website underwent a huge overhaul, and its online presence has been building for several years now. But there is still a long way to go before our digital journalism matches the print counterpart.
And the Daily Trojan is run by humans. Students, to be specific — overworked, underpaid students — doing the job for sheer love of the paper or stark raving lunacy.
In the end, however, the Daily Trojan is the reporter and commentator for the university, one of several fine campus news publications, but the only print one.
Because of this, the DT is in a unique position. Universities are the only niche markets in the country where print journalism is thriving.
The DT covers a small but specific perview relevant to some 40,000 students, with a circulation of more than 10,000, (up 1,000 from last year).
The Daily Trojan has a rich history.
This is the first newspaper in the country to interview Richard Nixon after his resignation.
This is the paper that had reporters on the streets during the Los Angeles riots to put out an extra issue, even though the paper had already closed up shop for the semester. (Incidentally, the Daily Trojan won the Pacemaker award that year, the highest honor in college journalism.)
This is the paper that broke the news of Obama’s visit to campus last semester.
This is the paper that has been ranked in the top three California college newspapers for the last two years by the California College Media Association.
Hell, this is the paper whose staff beat the Daily Bruin’s for 13 consecutive years in flag football.
I know what you’re thinking —does it hurt my back to kiss my own ass like this?
The DT is not above criticism. In fact, the paper needs to be criticized to continue to improve.
Even though the caliber of our students has risen exponentially in the last decade, at times it seems the student body is still in the fetal stage in terms of argumentary skills.
Not happy with university happenings? Write petitions, form protests, send letters to administrators. (Join Facebook groups too, but know that one doesn’t take the place of the other). Disagree with the Daily Trojan? Send a letter, drop by the office.
Or better yet: Apply to work for us. At the risk of sounding too much like The West Wing, we want good writers who disagree.
It’s time to raise the level of debate on campus — outside our newsroom, and within.
Lucy Mueller is a senior majoring in cinema-television production. Her column, “Everything is Copy,” ran every other Thursday.