Column: Appreciate the longevity of the written word

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

Newspapers have an eternal quality.

Now, before you roll your eyes and—in protest of the pretentiousness you are reading—set fire to this copy of The Daily Eastern News, let me explain what I mean.

The first story I wrote for The News was about classes being offered at the Gregg Technology Center.

The first meeting I covered was one routine Thursday when the Council on Academic Affairs approved the week’s course proposals.

The first feature story I wrote was about Mary Ann Pettway, a quilter from the historic Gee’s Bend, Alabama (sure enough, I got an angry email from a source alleging a misquote to squelch how proud I was of the final product).

The first column I wrote was for the 2013 New Student Guide about my experience as a freshman and learning to set aside my hardwired awkwardness to get involved in student organizations.

I’ve come a long way since all of those firsts, as I worked my way up to being news editor my junior year, and I am now devoting my senior year to being editor-in-chief.

I would not use any of those “first” clips in a portfolio to show a potential employer; instead I’ll choose from the hundreds of stories I’ve written since then.

Despite all the time that has passed, though, all of those early stories still exist. Long after I have graduated from the university, every word I have written for The News will still exist.

Not only do community members periodically save issues of the paper in their homes, but student publications also archives every issue of The News in bound volumes.

Nowadays we also have electronic archives; the PDFs of each issue are saved online to Issuu as well as in Both Library’s The Keep, and each individual story is posted to The News’ website.

I am reminded of the immortal presence of the written word for a couple of reasons.

On Nov. 5, The News celebrated its 100th anniversary.

For our special centennial edition, I wrote a feature story about Robert Sterling, who was co-editor of the Eastern State News in 1950.

I had the unique privilege of interviewing the oldest living editor-in-chief as the person who is technically the youngest living editor-in-chief.

My staff and I reviewed reprints of the first edition of the Normal School News for inspiration; we wrote about the founders of the paper and their original mission.

It is quite possible that a century from now future student journalists will peruse my words for inspiration, or perhaps a historian down the line will browse our pages to learn what went down at Eastern in the year 2015.

Knowing that your words will outlive you is a humbling idea.

Another, more somber anniversary came up for The News this November, as Sunday marked the day we lost our entertainment editor Samantha Middendorf in a car accident one year ago.

One year ago to Monday’s date, I had to reach into the depths of my being to summon the strength, sensitivity and professionalism to continue putting out a paper every day for the rest of the semester despite a tragic loss, as did my former editor-in-chief and other grief-stricken staff members.

Newspapers are eternal because they don’t end; certain papers may close their doors or consolidate as new ones emerge, but the desire to document the human experience is unwavering.

As a writer and a journalist, that will always be my purpose, even if it ceases to be my job.

Samantha was a writer at heart just like I am. She may have left us one year ago, but her words will always remain as documentation of the distinctly Eastern experience she was a part of.

Stephanie Markham is a senior journalism major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].