Like any editor with their section, my co-editor Arya and I devote large chunks of time to the Lifestyle section of the Daily Trojan. We provide arts coverage throughout the campus and Los Angeles, including film, book, restaurant and album reviews, profiles of student and artists, as well as coverage of screening events, plays, exhibits and concerts. We research and send pitches, communicate with writers and designers, edit articles, design layout and write stories when time permits.
Throughout this semester, the Lifestyle section has accomplished many things that I am proud of. While it is true that the arts and culture section of newspapers is mostly considered a light-hearted beat that provides entertainment, serving as respite from the urgency and seriousness of hard news, it is so much more than that to me. Though I do acknowledge the fact that we do do more fun things –– experiment with relationship issues, go to cool art shows, read books before they come out and attend sold out concerts –– we also get to use our creative and emotional forms of storytelling to spotlight pieces that bring awareness to issues on diversity in media, feminism and cultural inclusivity. Arts writing is so significant to me. Being part of this section has allowed me, especially when I was as a writer, to learn and discover so much about my own creative drive and hone my own voice as both an analytical and imaginative storyteller. Now, I serve as a catalyst to do the same for our writers.
Though I do enjoy the work that I do, it has been very difficult for me in a lot of ways. I recall one of the nights during one of my first few weeks as an editor. I was late to print but my proofs were still covered with questions and corrections smothered in highlighter and multi-colored pen, indicating that wasn’t anywhere near close to printing or finishing.
“What does this mean?” “Un-hyphenate.” “Doesn’t make sense. Change.” “The picture looks blurry.” “Missing a red bar.” “No.”
After looking through every miniscule detail, correcting all the mistakes made in articles and bracing myself prior to telling a writer that the story she worked so hard on can’t make it to production, I felt the weight of all the people I was disappointing, the fear of being disliked by my writers for making decisions out of my control and the burden of being criticized fall on my shoulders and crush me emotionally.
That night as I walked home, I felt like a squawking clarinet messing up the tune in a massive orchestra — it would be way better if I were not here.
I don’t know why I made the connection –– maybe it was because we recently pitched or edited an article related to classical music, but the idea that our paper was like a symphony orchestra suddenly made sense.
When I make mistakes, my cracked notes suddenly become very obvious and disrupt the tune of the whole ensemble. But when I do feel like I’m on top of things, I still feel that my articulation and musicality is drowned out by the grandeur of trumpets and trombones or the virtuosity of soloists. On top of that, the long hours didn’t really help either.
So why I am here and what is my significance?
For the same reason that actors must rehearse the same lines of their monologues over and over; the same reason that ballerina dancers have to repeat the same movements to make it look as if they are effortlessly flying on air on their satin pointe shoes and the same reason that musicians have to practice and listen to the same song a million times in order to execute it once perfectly — everything that I have felt and am feeling is a part of the process. The process is an essential part to the creation of art — as well as anybody who contributes to it.
The journey of creating something amazing and beautiful is well worth the tedious, mundane and sometimes overwhelming procedure that comes along with it. We are stenographers of Los Angeles and our art is having the honor to showcase artists, musicians, actors and students and make their art and their efforts come alive five times a week, in the middle of the newspaper.
In the metaphorical orchestra that is our student-run newspaper, it is normal for the bass line to feel that they don’t get to contribute as often, the melody to feel drowned out and the one that messes up to feel like they don’t belong or have no significance in the ensemble. But like with music, each section in the paper has its own distinct style and characteristic. The conductor cues us, but we get to add our own dynamics and interpretation. Some sections have more people than others, but we all contribute our own unique and equally important tunes to create one beautiful melody, in harmony with one another. Though it might seem like only first violins get all of the glory, the squawking clarinet and the softest voice of a flute has the ability to add to the compelling and beautiful musical lines. At the end of the day, every single voice and sound deserves be heard and valued.
Whenever I walk past a new restaurant in Downtown, see someone post LACMA’s newest exhibit on Instagram, glance at a movie ad on the street or hear my music major friend tell me that Thornton School of Music is playing a concert next week, I catch myself finding that the first thing that comes to mind is not “I should go!” but rather, “Lifestyle definitely needs to cover this,” and I smile.
I smile because, in the same way art is important to the heart of Los Angeles, the Daily Trojan has become important to mine.
Erika Lee is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. She is also the lifestyle editor of the Daily Trojan.