Courtesy of Julian Wray

Position(s): Managing Investigative Editor, Books Beat Editor, Summer 2021 Senior Arts Editor

Section(s): Arts, Focal Point

Semesters at The Daily: 5

I’m of the opinion that we are given meaningful things only so often. Moments, relationships, places of true value and impact are not common — they are rare, and you have little agency in finding them. They find you. Through coincidence and happenstance. Through little leaps and ounces of trust.

It’s been my experience that the smallest choices led to the greatest change. The Daily, our paper, has been the greatest point of change in my life. And I ended up here because of the smallest choice. There was a pandemic and I was stuck. I had little idea of what I wanted to study and less idea of what I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to write. I applied to Statement, was rejected, and so applied to Arts.

It was barely even a decision. It was an interesting thing, an off-chance, a whim. But I was hired because, according to then MAE John Decker, I wrote about nonfiction in my application, and they were looking for more coverage of that area. I’ve since written only one or maybe two articles about nonfiction. 

That was the fall of my sophomore year. I feel little connection to the person I was then, though he seems nice in my memory. I was timid and quiet. I didn’t know what to say. I was terrified of the newsroom and the people in it. I now can’t imagine a place I’d rather be on a Wednesday night, or people I’d rather be with. I know now what to say. I’m still a little quiet, and at times a little scared. 

But I know what I want to be. I’ve found a talent and a puzzle to work on, a career and a clear path forward. I didn’t find it by myself — it was shown to me in pieces by the many people I’m proud to call friends and mentors.

This is the part where I want to say thank you: to Andrew Pluta, my first editor, who encouraged my writing and shared the most horrifying icebreaker I’ve ever heard (“Sometimes I fill my water bottle from the bathtub tap”). To Elise and Zoe for crafting the unparalleled and feral energy of the Arts section. To Fia, who I was lucky to edit the Arts section with that summer I worked on the farm in Wisconsin, to run for MAE alongside Katrina, and who’s music coverage will probably be the defining voice of the next few decades. To Emilia, who I’m fortunate to edit alongside now, and who I hope will make a career writing horror novels and claiming a relation to a cousin named Elena. Thank you to Lilly for letting me tag along to the Phoebe Bridgers concert, and for the immaculate Arts vibes you and Sabriya have given us this last year.

And to all the other Arts staff I’ve been fortunate enough to work with, thank you. You’ve made these last couple years beautiful and strange and incomparable.

I have to talk now about Focal Point. When I say I’ve found a career at the Daily, I mean that I’ve found it through Focal Point. This is the first time in my life that I’ve contributed to something greater, something with meaning beyond myself. I applied to the section on a whim. In my application I argued that book reviews were relevant experience to investigative reporting. I still think they are. I had no idea I’d find something so essential in myself here: a need to know and understand, to find answers and the ability to do so.

I owe so much to Sammy Sussman for teaching me how to do this work, and to Vanessa Kiefer for the seven long months we spent in the world of musicology. I cannot say thank you enough. 

To the reporters I’ve worked with and edited, I encourage you to never give up the chase. We live among institutions that tolerate and support abuse, discrimination, wrongdoing. You are what stands, often alone, between transparency and a world of silence. Your dedication to your work has brought to light and will continue to expose issues which otherwise would never have been known to the public. Never forget the necessity and privilege of what we do, and never stop doing it.

To the sources who’ve trusted me with you stories, thank you. Your courage and bravery in speaking out is something I’ll never forget.

We are given meaningful things only so often. It’s not up to us. We can only learn to recognize them when they come along. We can hold them close. I’ve breathed the warmth of this place for two and a half years now, and I know I’ll never want to leave. But I know I’m marked by my time here, affected always and for the better. Thank you.