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Connections with fellow Daily Bruin staff gave me confidence to pursue my passion -30-

(Courtesy of Raunak Devjani)

By Raunak Devjani

June 10, 2020 6:25 p.m.

I am far too often ridiculed for my belief that everything happens for a reason. I’m an unapologetic fan of silver linings and signs from the universe – often nonexistent ones.

But, as much as I hate to publish this sentiment, one of the many truths about my Daily Bruin experience is that it tested my capacity for optimism like never before.

To address the elephant in the room, I’ll say at the outset that one of the key instances I’m referring to is the 2019 strike against UCLA’s Communications Board. When about half of our active staff jumped ship, innate hope didn’t come as easily as it usually does. By continuing to publish, I was standing against some of my closest friends and pissing off staffers I’d never even spoken to, all while taking on an unprecedented amount of responsibility. The understandable state of polarity within the newsroom made it difficult to follow my instincts – how could one best go forward?

Step one was to stomach the troubling reality that there would never be a perfect solution in response to that fateful endorsement hearing. We had to work with the damage left behind.

But the primary essence of Daily Bruin, and any respectable newspaper, is to keep its community informed. And so I was decidedly more concerned with doing right by our readers than I was with the ongoing fight against the board over a bylaw we’d already consented to as a collective staff.

I recognized from the get-go that my stance was a controversial one, but I received no shortage of reminders in the strike’s aftermath. Pokerfaced as I may seem – which my contributors have teased me about at every possible opportunity – it’s not easy walking into the newsroom you once called home, only to feel unwelcome for doing what you knew was the right thing. But where bridges were burnt between staffers, new bonds rose from the ashes.

Like I said, silver linings.

The strike, with the onslaught of negativity, also brought me a renewed sense of integrity and competence – something of marked importance given my struggle with the notion that I wasn’t good enough as an editor, journalist and human being. Leading the Arts section came with the constant pressure to be perfect, and consequent self-criticism. Marginally missing Copy’s deadline twice in the same week would send me spiraling. Having to reprimand a writer made my heart clench with guilt and minor corrections that I had no way of preventing would keep me awake during unholy hours of the night. (Fortunately, those hours corresponded with daytime in Madrid, where Pablo Muñoz, a precious newsroom friend, was studying abroad and simultaneously playing therapist.)

It took constant recalibration and weekly reminders from my boss, former Editor-in-Chief Jacob Preal, to accept that my legacy would be based on the big picture, not the unfavorable minutiae that are inevitable in student journalism. After all, we’re just a bunch of kids trying to keep it together like adults.

Only after noticing some 30 gray hairs on my head did I finally settle upon different metrics to measure myself – my conviction to stand on the side of publishing, for one, or even the way my contributors would confide in me about their non-newsroom issues.

I was fortunate enough to establish these close connections with my writers, each of whom taught me something about journalism, the arts or simply about life. Coming full circle felt important, seeing as I flourished under the mentorship of former Arts editors Lindsay Weinberg and Nate Nickolai, who continued to provide me with counsel even after they went on to write for the Hollywood Reporter and Variety, respectively.

They fall into my category of silver linings, as does former Music | fine arts editor Andrew Warner, who gave me so much to smile about throughout our stressful editorship. With us was former Lifestyle editor Linda Xu, my close confidante and the final authority on the dress I wore to the Oscars, representing Daily Bruin at the red carpet for the first time in its 100 years of publishing.

Better yet, I was able to pursue a passion project on the cultural and cinematic impacts of Marvel’s “Black Panther.” As my beloved colleague Alexandra Del Rosario once told me, this story is the gift that keeps on giving; she was referring to the awards this piece sent my way, but I am even more thankful for the opportunity I had to speak with some of my cinema idols. Understanding their storytelling process shaped my creative sensibilities profoundly, sparking the life-altering realization that I didn’t want to be a journalist but rather a producer of similarly meaningful films.

As I set out to do just that, I realize this journey would be impossible without my spontaneous decision to join Daily Bruin as a freshman. If the takeaway from my senior column is the clichéd “glass is half full” spiel, then so be it. The windowless newsroom of Kerckhoff 118 – complete with its leaking pipes, littered coffee cups and indecent wall quotes – built me from the ground up into who I am today. In this organization, I found not only myself, but also the fiercest friends, including one who doubled as a leader I’d follow into journalism’s jaws of death.

And so, here’s another truth about my Daily Bruin experience – the most important one, perhaps. Depending on where you’re standing, these four years can technically be represented by a splash of silver on a canvas that’s largely painted in gray.

But I’m inclined to believe it’s the other way around.

Devjani was an A&E contributor in 2017, Theater | film | television editor 2017-2018, Arts editor 2018-2019 and Arts senior staff 2019-2020.

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Raunak Devjani
Devjani is the top editor of the Arts and Entertainment section. She was previously the assistant editor for the Theater Film and Television beat.
Devjani is the top editor of the Arts and Entertainment section. She was previously the assistant editor for the Theater Film and Television beat.
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