Courtesy of Arjun Thakkar.

Position(s): Winter 2019 – Fall 2021 Daily Staff Reporter, Winter 2020 – Summer 2020 Assistant News Editor, Winter 2019 MiC Columnist, Fall 2019 The Statement Columnist

Section(s): News, MiC, Statement

Semesters at The Daily: 6

I still remember the first time I walked into the newsroom for a Fall 2018 mass meeting. To the shy freshman that I was, the massive crowd of prospective staffers was frightening. The editors seemed so confident, contrasted with me breaking into a sweat just to ask one staffer a simple question. It took me two semesters to build up the motivation and energy to get on the News staff, and I didn’t feel like a real student journalist until 2020, when the friendships I was developing got upended by the pandemic. In short, I wasn’t sure if I really belonged at The Michigan Daily.

Despite my reservations, I stuck with the paper. After six and a half semesters here, I feel reassured each time I walk into the newsroom and take an immediate hard left to the News desk, where familiar faces make me feel welcomed and appreciated. The best thing about The Daily is the dozens of passionate people who work here. It can be intimidating to be a part of such a skilled newsroom, but after years of writing with other talented reporters, I’m glad I am able to call even a handful of them good friends. 

The Daily is by no means a perfect student newspaper. I’ve done my fair bit of complaining to friends and family about how some of the things we do are questionable. Even when it has felt like The Daily wasn’t the right fit for me, I stuck with it out of the faith that we could still accomplish meaningful work here. I’m grateful that I was able to report with such a supportive News team and ask important questions about sustainability and the University of Michigan administration. Whether it was covering hours of Regents meetings with Calder, reading through dozens of carbon neutrality measures well past midnight or spending weeks asking activists about fossil fuel divestment, I’ve grown to be a more confident and collaborative person. 

That doesn’t mean I still don’t have bouts of insecurity. Questions hit me when I’m rewriting a headline and wondering if my work — our work — actually matters. I often wonder: Do people read what we write? Do readers care about the nuances of fossil fuel divestment and carbon neutrality? Do our hundreds of hours and thousands of words really help anyone? Do we take our work too seriously?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned here is that there’s no need to put on the façade of confidence and boldness when it’s unwarranted; it’s honorable to be humble and recognize what you don’t know and where you can improve while working on your strengths. Asking these questions forces us to think carefully, write more clearly and concisely and report more effectively. Our job is to serve the public, not the insiders who already know all the information we report. All the staffers and editors here have their moments of doubt and uncertainty. Anyone who says they don’t is fooling themselves.

To all the editors and other reporters who’ve worked on my stories: thanks for dealing with my confusing sentences and deadline extensions. The admin editors deserve a special shoutout for teaching me to be a better reporter and writer. Asking the tough, complicated questions and making the answers comprehensible has been a great time, and I have all of you to thank for that.

I’m thankful for our readers who engage with our content, whether it’s Public Affairs telling us to issue a correction, community members who appreciate our coverage or family and friends reading just because they recognize the byline. We do our job because of you, and it would serve us well to remember that when we all too often get into the weeds and forget why we are here. 

This is turning into a “PBS is made possible by viewers like you” rant, so I’ll cut myself off here after one last thank-you. 

Most of all, a sincere thanks to all of my sources, who make my job easier. I’ve truly enjoyed our long phone and Zoom calls that fill paragraphs of my articles. There wouldn’t be any worthwhile stories to tell if it weren’t for you.