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The Bruin offers direction, even if it’s to the exit

By Menaka Fernando

June 12, 2005 9:00 p.m.

Everybody at the Daily Bruin talks about quitting.

One more 16-hour day, and I’m outta here. If I get another
C, the newspaper has to go. When my fingers automatically dial the
long-distance code every time I pick up a phone, I’m done.
Yes, the word “quit” gets thrown around as much as
stress balls fly at the heads of assistant editors.

But its frequency has rendered the word almost meaningless. Each
time it slips out of the mouths of exhausted editors or overworked
writers, it simply bounces around gray-carpeted bulletin boards
““ or “walls,” as we like to call them ““ and
is heard by no one.

That is, until someone actually quits.

I did it. Midway into my year as news editor, I stepped out from
a tiny cubicle in that mystical windowless office in Kerckhoff
Hall. Some might call it freedom, others abandonment. I say
inevitable. It wasn’t the long days, the rarity of making it
to class or my inability to get out of “DB mode” that
led to my decision. It was simply the fact that my time was up.

By quitting, I was leaving so many stories untold, voices
unheard and friends yet to be made. Still, my departure helped me
realize that The Bruin was more than the chaos of daily production
or a collective of aspiring journalists. It is a generation-old
machine that takes its young staff and gives them a direction to
their futures. To me, it showed a path to an early exit.

It is when the wise old Bruin tells you to quit ““ and only
then ““ that you do it.

Like most “extracurricular” activities (try
explaining to The Bruin staff that 50-hour weeks in the office are
supposed to be extracurricular), working at a college newspaper
arms students with invaluable experience. On a daily basis, we
refine our analytical abilities and learn how to work together. We
gain interpersonal skills by dealing with a frustrated source, and
we quickly get a lesson in law when that source threatens to sue.
We are constantly on the peak of current events.

We are a mill generating ideas faster than we know what to do
with. We learn endlessly from our successes, like the investigative
report on shoddy construction of a new housing complex. But we
learn infinitely more from our blunders, like a rape photo
illustration gone hopelessly wrong. We learn from each other, and
we meet people we’ll know forever.

During my time at The Bruin ““ those hours of discussion in
the conference room with my fellow Edi-Boarders, that interview
with a struggling, undocumented student, and that five-hour USAC
meeting in which I cursed my editors to death ““ I got my
college education.

The Bruin shows its staff how to make a difference in the
community, even if it’s something as small as improving the
UCLA Web site. And with this prospect of making a difference, The
Bruin ignites in its staff a desire to save the world. That’s
what I’m off to do, and I’ll be eternally grateful to
The Bruin for showing me the way.

And to those of you who wonder what it feels like to finally get
up and act on the word that lingers perpetually inside the Daily
Bruin office, it’s bittersweet. But seeing the sun for the
first time in two and a half years is fabulous.

Fernando was the news editor until the middle of winter
2005. In addition to the sun, she also saw blue sky, birds and her
roommates after two and a half years.

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Menaka Fernando
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