I walked into The Cavalier Daily in 2016 like I wanted to run the whole show — and honestly, when I was a first-year, that was the end goal. But life happened — injuries knocked me out of commission, elections were lost and by the middle of third year, it became clear that the titles that had glimmered in my head for years were out of reach.
At that point, I had fought many fights as a news writer for The Cavalier Daily, and I do not just mean attempts to get comment from “the University.” I had fought to have my ideas considered in a newsroom that could be slow to change. I had fought to pursue the stories I was passionate about and get them published. I had fought to “fit in” socially within the organization. And I had fought to draw attention to issues of diversity and inclusion in the news team and in our coverage.
Some of these fights were better worth my time than others. For a long time, I was the only Latinx writer on the news team, and now there are two of us. That’s progress, but when I reflect on my time at The Cavalier Daily, I wish I had devoted more of the energy I spent fighting those other battles towards this one. Instead, I spread myself thin trying to make an impact everywhere, even in areas where the desired outcomes were no longer worth the effort.
Pursuing unwinnable battles, especially when you have other responsibilities that demand your attention, can rob you of your joy, your energy and your friendships. Perhaps most importantly, it can also drain you of your purpose — the drive to press forward with an untold story, to chart an academic path you are passionate about, to fight for a cause you believe in. The middle of my third year was a reckoning for me — when I realized that the ways I had tried to distinguish myself as a reporter and editor at The Cavalier Daily had left me unsatisfied and exhausted.
I got so caught up in being undeniable that I got off track from the mission — to produce great journalism. Surely this experience is not unique for women/non-binary journalists like myself who demand to be noticed, and so I have learned to forgive myself for my mistakes.
I licked my wounds and turned my attention to two objectives that provide the greatest joy I receive from being a member of The Cavalier Daily — the opportunities to mentor new writers and to tell the many stories of our University. I am so grateful for the relationships The Cavalier Daily News Team has provided me with, as I have gotten to befriend and work with eight semesters’ worth of new writers throughout my time here. It has been an absolute privilege to watch those writers turn into leaders, and I cannot wait to watch what they do next. Nik, Jenn, Ali, Paige, Sydney and Jacquelyn deserve the world and more for letting me give them unsolicited advice for as long as they have been enrolled here.
Regarding writing, I am fortunate to have found a niche at The Cavalier Daily reporting on how University decisions, policies and events impact the student body. It sounds cheesy, but I’ve realized that my favorite part of journalism is hearing and recounting people’s stories, and The Cavalier Daily has given me the platform and tools to do so.
As I enter the journalism workforce during a perilous time for both humanity at large and the field in particular, I am reminded of how important it is to remember why I do journalism. When we forget our “why,” we lose the will to press on towards our ultimate goals, whatever they may be. For me, I expect the answers to “why” to shift throughout my career — and that is OK. I just do not want to lose sight of them.
So, my fellow Cavalier Daily news writers – whom I have called many things, including, but not limited to, residents, grandchildren, newsies, kiddos, bb writers and, best of all, friends — you guys rock, and I can’t wait to keep reading the work you produce as an alum.
I impart four final pieces of advice to you. Don’t forget that the work you do matters. Don’t be complacent in continuing to do things the way they have always been done. Be constantly vigilant of who is being left out of the conversation, whether it be in print or in the office, and work to bring them in. And don’t forget your why.
Alright, that’s enough unsolicited advice. For now.
Kate Bellows was the Senior Associate News Editor for the 128th and 129th terms of The Cavalier Daily and a Senior News Writer from the 127th term through the 130th term.