Kerckhoff 118. 1:43 a.m. Usually a time when about five exhausted, sleepy and burned out Daily Bruin staffers exit the building to a freezing, hauntingly empty UCLA campus and make their way home to get some rest.
This night in early fall is different, however. We are 43 minutes past deadline. But that is alright – this only means the paper will be 43 minutes late to the newsstands.
Amy, our copy editor, is sending pages to the printer – in the newsroom, we call this “pagination.” As she sends the pages, she finds that the top half of Page 8 is blank. Having recently transitioned into my job as an assistant Design director, I am surprised, confused and terrified. I’m not sure how this happened, and I’m even less sure what I should do about it.
Did we forget to place an article? Did the ads department forget to send us an ad to place here? What does Page 8 usually have on it?
I scramble to call people who could help me figure out what to do, but in the wee hours of the night, everybody is asleep. Taking a leap of faith, I begin redesigning the Sports section to fill up that blank page. Amy calls the printer, her phone struggling to keep up with the shoddy cell reception in the depths of Kerckhoff, to explain that Page 8 will be coming in late.
Hours later, the paper turned out fine – just a little late to the stands – and nobody questioned why the photos in the Sports section were unusually large.
In the production of a daily newspaper that has been running smoothly for decades, I thought to myself: This night could not have been the paper’s first major crisis, although it seemed like it was. Surely, such things happen all the time, but former staffers have managed to produce and deliver a paper every weekday morning.
That’s when I began to appreciate how the Daily Bruin is a well-oiled machine that runs itself, resting on the hard work of its hundreds of employees.
But I also realized that every one of us is replaceable. Students come in to the newspaper and are entirely replaced by others after they graduate a few years later. If I had not been there with Amy to redesign the paper, I know someone else would have – and the paper would have turned out just as fine.
I wasn’t here to use the Daily Bruin as my personal outlet. I was here to work hard and contribute to something valuable. And having the opportunity to play my small part in this organization made me feel more grateful than ever.
There were days this year when I walked to Kerckhoff more enthusiastically than I did to my classes – and some days when I even skipped a class to work on a layout because the work I did at the Daily Bruin felt gratifying.
I initially struggled taking criticism about my designs and felt disheartened when my A&E stories wouldn’t end up reading in my own voice. But over time, as I began to appreciate the work the Daily Bruin puts out, the impact it has and the level of quality it maintains, I became more receptive and open to criticism. If someone told me my design wasn’t logical or readable, I valued their opinion, knowing that our goal is to be accessible to readers.
Being a part of the Daily Bruin has helped me learn so much along the way. I now know what constitutes good design – and have heard enough feedback to execute it. I have spent time reporting in-depth on filmmakers, playwrights and students who love brunch. I would never have done so without the Daily Bruin.
I can now even take a decent photo.
I know that as I graduate and leave the Daily Bruin, someone else will take my place and travel the same trajectory. I know I’m replaceable. But I have never felt underappreciated at the Daily Bruin. In the newsroom, I have found people, some of whom have become my closest friends, who appreciate one another’s hard work and help others reach their potential.
Looking back almost a year later, the crisis Amy and I encountered is only an anecdote we like to tell our friends. The Daily Bruin’s history is strengthened by the crises that were addressed and solved by people who were dedicated to it.
As I leave UCLA, I’m going to remember how gratifying it felt to give a hundred percent of what I have to the Daily Bruin. Even if it made a tiny impact or if nobody noticed, I know it’s paid off.
Ahmed was a Design contributor 2016-2017, assistant Design director 2017-2018 and a Photo and A&E contributor 2017-2018.