Farewell from the Editor
Author Ben Snyder
Contrary to popular belief, I was not born with a pen in my hand. In fact, I had never seriously considered writing for or running a newspaper until Grady approached me with the idea of restarting Charter’s paper as a part of his newfangled organization, Force Media.
We had grand aspirations that the newspaper would be a beacon for writers in a STEM focused school, bring the community closer together, and serve as an open forum for all students to voice their creativity. I cannot help but look back and think that I may have been a little too optimistic; while I dreamed, the paper had neither name nor writers.
While The Force File may not have revolutionized student life at Charter, it has come a long way from the crowded interest meeting the fall of my junior year and the meme-full presentation I gave titled “Welcome to the Newspaper!” (if you decide to be a part of the club, you will probably see a version of it next year). That meeting was the first time I stood in front of a room of people in an organization that I was in charge of—only one of many firsts.
Starting from scratch, there were so many unanswered questions. How would we publish? What guidelines would we have for writing? How would we edit and organize all of the articles? So I drafted formatting guidelines, created a Google Drive folder for article submissions, and met with Grady and Preeti to figure out our strategy. Not everything worked the way I thought it would. I learned that people hate taking surveys and that formatting and printing a physical newspaper is a whole afternoon’s worth of work (and sometimes more).
Needless to say, leaving Charter and the newspaper is a poignantly bittersweet moment. I look forward to expanding horizons in the future as I continue on to college, but I feel the loss of places and faces I hold dear. Thinking about my departure there are a few things I would like to say.
First of all, the newspaper has been an incredibly meaningful and rewarding experience, and I want to thank all of the people that have made it happen: Grady, Preeti, Nikhil, column editors, club members, writers, the Lounsburys, even my mother. These people have acted as sounding boards for my ideas, injected ideas of their own, created the website, and generally been a huge help with the editing and writing that forms the core of what the paper is all about.
I also want to share what I’ve learned over the last two years here. After spending many a late night reading over articles before publication and frantically scrambling to get images formatted properly in Google Docs, I have certainly gained a new appreciation for the work that goes into a newspaper. Through our publishing process, I have encountered questions about what people should be allowed to say and how information on the Internet should be shared and used. Most importantly, however, I learned how important bringing a group together around a shared goal is for making progress.
Finally, I wanted to end my final letter from the editor in the same way I started the first one: with some reflections on writing, journalism, and life in general. As I wrote there, since the rulers of Ancient Sumer used clay tablets to make administrative records, writing has formed the basis of modern society. This is especially important to keep in mind for students like myself interested in going in to STEM—it’s easy for us to discount the power of writing. The most common piece of advice I have heard from eminent scientists (including most recently Nobel prize winning biologist James Rothman) is to learn to become an effective communicator.
Whether or not you keep up with the news, journalism forms an essential part of the literary tradition today. Despite the challenges of political polarization and an increasingly digital and short attention-spanned population, journalists keep us informed about the events from New York to San Francisco to Madrid to Tehran to Tokyo. And while there is plenty I could say about writing and journalism, there is one real piece of advice I would like to give.
Whispering mysteriously: Carpe diem. Seize the day, my fellow students, seize the day (if you don’t get the reference, go watch The Dead Poet’s Society). People say it all the time, but I didn’t really understand the meaning of reaching out and grabbing something until I started working on the newspaper. Potential opportunities exist all around us, but realizing them requires moving an idea past the brainstorming stage and taking action.
The time we have in high school, in life, is plenty long, but not long enough to waste it debating whether or not to try something new. Not long enough to spend regretting missed chances. Not long enough to sit docile while the currents of other people’s lives spin you around. So I leave you with these words: go out into the world and do something with your interests. Whether you start a newspaper, pick up the violin and join a band, or simply ask your crush out to the movies, life is your oyster--but it’s up to you to seize its pearl.
Ben Snyder, Editor of The Force File.