Behind the Desk: The Road to Editorial Director

Natalie Yee | Daily Trojan

I took over as the editorial director of the Daily Trojan in the third week of Spring 2017 after one week of shadowing my predecessor. At the beginning of the semester, I was preparing for my new role as an editorial assistant; my first big surprise on the Daily Trojan’s staff came when I learned my editor would be stepping down, and I was encouraged to interview to take his place.

I have no intention of making this entry of “Behind the Desk” into a quasi-autobiography, but for some context, I am the kind of person who finds fulfillment in keeping busy. That being said, the jobs and extracurriculars I’ve involved myself with all share one thing — I do them because I love them, and I wouldn’t do them if I didn’t love them. That’s why I’ve always been a writer — first for my high school newspaper beginning in my junior year, and then for numerous internet news publications over the past two years — because I cannot emphasize this enough: I love writing.

In this sense, I’ve never considered myself an ambitious person, but a hedonistic one. I’ve never perceived myself as a leader, or anything other than a girl who loves having opinions and loves writing about them. Stepping up and becoming an editor was a very uncomfortable idea for me.

When I was offered the position, I was astounded that people I had so much respect and admiration for saw potential in me that I never believed existed. I simply didn’t see what our editor-in-chief, Danni Wang, or our managing editor, Sonali Seth, saw in me, but I had so much respect for their opinions that I trusted them and nervously accepted the offer.

The only two things I’ve ever known for certain about myself are that, first, as I’ve previously, emphatically noted, I love writing, and second, that I am woefully inept at anything involving art and aesthetics. You can imagine my surprise at this point in the semester, that Adobe InDesign and the basics of Photoshop are second nature to me as I spend roughly 25 hours a week plopped in front of an oversized Mac desktop, laying out the editorial pages.

And many more surprises have since been scattered throughout my semester as your editorial director.

Put simply, I was initially so plagued with self-doubt that at the beginning, I made it a goal to do one thing: everything and anything that I was told to. But the ultimate lesson I learned, not immediately but gradually, is that respect is not always about sweeping, blind agreement. In the newsroom every day, I watch as crucial decisions about our content and journalistic practices spring from sometimes contentious debate among my co and managing editors, people with such impressive backgrounds in journalism, diverse opinions and, above all, strong, mutual respect for each other.

And the more I’ve learned about the Daily Trojan from sitting in the editorial director’s chair, the more inspired I’ve been to step out of my comfort zone and try to involve myself in the dialogues and decision-making. Respect isn’t about always agreeing; it’s about genuinely wanting to collaborate, have discussions, understand each other and produce the best work we can.

In the Daily Trojan’s newsroom, we share a passion for campus affairs, for being in the know and understanding what is going on around ourselves and around our peers, for leading discussion and following it. That is what unites us, and that is what’s placed us all in this room. But that being said, campus affairs are by no means the only things we discuss. Everyone brings their own special interests and unique backgrounds to the table. Whether the topic is dog spotting, the Trump administration gaffe of the day, Fifth Harmony, Planned Parenthood funding, the Warriors, the latest viral meme or how freaking life-changing podcasts are (for the 107th time, Terry, I’ll listen to some, eventually), the conversation is never dull, and no topic is ever off the table — though I could certainly go with less CupcakKe lyrics (I’m looking at you, Tomás).

At the end of the day, my biggest surprise from working as an editor this semester, as cliche as it sounds, is how much more I’ve learned in this new room than in any lecture hall here at USC. Sure, I’ve learned a lot about journalism, reporting and collaboration, but the most important lesson I’ve learned is pretty personal and unacademic.

That is, you can simultaneously be proud and humble — and not at all arrogant. Pride is knowing that you’re on the right path and still getting there, but arrogance is when you think you’re there. It’s where you stop pushing yourself, cease to tinker with new ideas — new layouts and designs, new angles and editorial approaches, new anythings.

At the Daily Trojan, we are incredibly proud of the work we produce, but we are also humble and acknowledge all the work that still must be done. We are constantly striving toward higher standards because we know we’re on the right path — but we also know we’re still getting there.

And as my semester as your editorial director draws to a close, I can honestly say that I’m proud of the job I’ve done. I’m proud of the columns I’ve written, the editorial boards I’ve contributed to, the stories I’ve pitched, assigned and edited and the pages I’ve made, all with the patient guidance of Danni and Sonali, who have been there for me every day to answer my ceaseless, stupid questions and support me through the general ups and downs of my first year of college.

But simultaneously, I am humbled to dust by the kindness I’ve been shown, the support and encouragement I’ve received regarding both my work and personal life, from my co-editors. And in my humble opinion, there’s no place I’d rather be, no people I’d rather work with.