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Being different is a privilege

By Kelly Rayburn

June 13, 2004 9:00 p.m.

Have you seen how the Los Angeles Times does it?”
“The Orange County Register does this cool thing where
…” “It just doesn’t seem very
professional.”

Far too often in the last few years I heard conversations that
included phrases like these. I muttered them myself.

Each of the Daily Bruin staffs I was privileged enough to be a
part of was made up of energetic, insightful, perceptive people who
worked long hours, persevering to tell the UCLA story in print.

Generally, these individuals had a fresh and idealistic outlook
and were largely unfettered by the disillusionment, decline in
passion and boredom that seems to come as the years pass.

Yet all too often when questions about how to do our jobs arose,
we asked, “What would the grown-ups do?”

Even in our most creative moments this past year ““ when we
added a page dedicated to football game coverage, planned recall
election stories, overhauled the Viewpoint section, or altered our
design ““ it seemed our first impulse was to consult the
professionals. We laid their papers in front of us, looking for
answers.

We were successful. The compliment I seem to get most often when
I show people copies of The Bruin is, “It looks so
professional.”

The Bruin does look professional. But it isn’t.

And if we thought it was, our illusions were smashed in April
when the real professionals broke the UCLA story of the year
““ that people were cutting up medical school cadavers and
selling the body parts on a black market.

(For good measure, the Los Angeles Times proceeded to beat us to
follow-up stories for the next week or so.)

Despite a solid effort on our part, when the pros applied the
full-court press, we got spanked.

Though not happy about it, I was not completely depressed
either. I asked myself, “Even if The Bruin could be a clone
of a professional paper, would we want it to be?”

Some of my UCLA regrets are that I spent too little time at the
beach, that I rarely sat down with a good book in the sculpture
garden, that I never explored our campus’ underground tunnels
and that I will graduate with only one or two of my professors even
knowing my name.

Not for a second do I regret that under my leadership the
student newspaper wasn’t more like the Los Angeles Times or
Orange County Register.

If your goal is to tell the truth, you can only trust
yourself.

Ңbull;Ӣbull;Ӣbull;

I’ve had many sleepless nights the last few weeks.
Restless, I would experience a diverse rush of Bruin memories
““ some involving reporting and editing, others very personal;
some of them on the record, others far off it.

I remember covering the Board of Regents repeal of
anti-affirmative action policies, the U.S. Secret Service falsely
accusing me of having a fraudulent press pass, an editor’s 7
a.m. phone call on Sept. 11, 2001, and sitting down in John
Wooden’s cluttered condominium for an interview.

I remember scribbling notes as students screamed at each other
on Bruin Walk and the popping sound of a police officer shooting a
transient in a nearby study lounge. I remember a $100,000 vending
machine kiosk, “Manipulation is the Key” and “The
revolution will not be televised.”

I remember 10-hour work days, 12-hour days, 15-hour days and a
few nights when I slept in the office.

I remember blackjack and roller-coasters in Las Vegas,
stargazing in Beaumont and Joshua Tree, lake swimming in the Ozarks
and the Sierras, speeding tickets in Utah and Nevada, and an
unexpected red-eye flight to San Francisco.

I remember singing “Jane Says” on the Santa Monica
pier and then sprinting around underneath the pier, dodging the
pilings, our pant-legs rolled up as the midnight sea surged,
licking our ankles and feet.

I remember coffee from the upstairs coffeehouse, champagne on
the roof of Kerckhoff Hall, Margarita Mondays, Jell-O shots, wine
and cheese nights, tequila nights, 40 nights, and ““ it now
seems it was so inevitable ““ appearing in our own
Crimewatch.

I can’t begin to pretend that these numberless experiences
can come together to be something singularly meaningful in my mind
or heart. They probably never will.

But returning to this column’s original theme, I can say
that as far as what was published in our newspaper, I am far
prouder of the times we were boldly different from the professional
papers than the times when we successfully mimicked them.

I’m proud that in the last few years it was not uncommon
for The Bruin’s front page to feature photos of
Westwood’s homeless. Are such images ever as prominent in the
Los Angeles Times?

I’m proud of editorials written this year showing same-sex
marriage to be part of a civil-rights struggle. The professionals
mostly followed the politicians’ lead, quibbling over
states’ rights versus the need not to change the
institution’s traditional definition.

I’m proud of small sports coverage and previews of music
shows at the Cooperage.

I’m proud that The Bruin has the guts to publish swear
words on occasion. They are, after all, a part of life.

I’m proud of an article I wrote about small-time
candidates campaigning to be mayor of Los Angeles. Some of them
told me I was just about the only reporter to give them any
attention.

I’m proud of all the times the students at The Bruin
questioned society and its organizational structures just a bit
more fundamentally than professional papers would.

A few words written by a past Bruin editor were posted on the
office wall this past year. In 1952, considering UCLA’s
shortcomings, Peter Graber wrote, “You know that
there’ll always be those waging the good fight ““ and
that the Daily Bruin will be in the forefront.”

I wish I could be as confident as Graber was over a half century
ago, but instead I can only ask, “As The Bruin observes a
changing university during the first years of the 21st century,
will it do what it needs to do to maintain its spot leading the
good fight? Or will it look to others to lead the way for
it?”

It’s hard for me to accept that I will not be part of that
question’s answer. Each of the past few years, I felt like I
had a do-over, a chance to right all things wrong with The Bruin.
That is no longer true.

Growing older and heading away, I can no longer claim the
privilege of being among the unprofessionals. I have hope that
future staff members will realize what a privilege being part of
that group really is ““ and such hope is not at all different
from my hope that they will truly understand what it means to be a
student journalist.

-30-

Had the minimum progress requirement and expected cumulative
progress applied to him, Rayburn probably would have graduated in
2003. He would not have been The Bruin’s 2003-2004 editor in
chief, and his education would have been far less complete and
meaningful.

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