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The Bruin helped me find my voice through a series of happy accidents -30-

Maddie McDonagh stands for a portrait. (Megan Cai/Assistant Photo editor)

By Maddie McDonagh

June 4, 2022 7:22 p.m.

I don’t usually have very much to say.

In fact, I waited until the very last minute to turn in this column because, after copy editing 40-plus -30- columns over the course of my two years of editorship, I didn’t think I had anything particularly unique to say about the Daily Bruin experience. But since friends and fellow editors have said it would be a waste to not participate in this tradition, here it goes.

I’ve always been someone who works best behind the scenes, and finding a community of people in Daily Bruin Copy who are also committed to supporting others has been incredibly rewarding.

However, when I first joined Copy near the beginning of my UCLA journey, I never expected I’d still be here at the end. My continued and increased involvement with the paper can be chalked up to a series of accidents and rash decisions, the first one being my application to the Copy section in the first place.

I can still remember filling out the application on the top bunk of my Hedrick Hall dorm room in January 2019. It was about 90 minutes before the deadline, and I was scrambling to write a mock story for the News section’s application. My frantic typing was interrupted by the arrival of my roommate, who went on to tell me that she had, shockingly, just been scammed by a dentist who advertised free teeth-whitening on Facebook. I immediately shut my laptop to console her and help her come up with a plan to get her money back.

With 40ish minutes left before the deadline, I knew there was no way I could finish a mock story and the rest of the News application in time. However, I was determined to submit something. I was vaguely familiar with AP Style thanks to my stint as an editor for my high school’s newspaper, so I started on the Copy application. And a couple weeks later, I joined the Daily Bruin as a Copy intern.

My advancement within the section followed largely the same pattern. And though I enjoyed my work as a Copy staffer, I never felt like I had the extroversion I believed necessary for leadership positions. I only applied to be a slot editor for the 2020-2021 school year because my plans to study in London had been thwarted by the worsening COVID-19 pandemic and a few kind copy editors had expressed their confidence in my abilities. I remember thinking to myself, “I mean, what else am I going to do this year?”

And then, after a turbulent year of slotting remotely and a contentious editor-in-chief selection process that had significantly reduced staff morale, I was ready to be done. I was tired of facilitating production and navigating disputes via Slack. I was tired of constantly editing coverage of the pandemic as it chipped away at my life. I was tired of what can already be a thankless job in the best of circumstances but felt unbearably so in the worst.

The Copy chief application came out shortly after the 2021-2022 upper management was announced, and I was more than ready to congratulate whichever one of my fellow slot editors decided to sacrifice themselves for the section. At our weekly slot meeting, the Copy chiefs at the time asked if anyone was planning to apply. The eight of us sat on Zoom in silence for at least 30 seconds before, probably only because the long pause was making me uncomfortable, I blurted out, “I guess I could do it.”

And a year after this monumental lapse in judgment, I’m still suffering the consequences of my impulsive words. Kidding. I never imagined I’d assume a leadership role within The Bruin, but I believe I’ve grown into it over the past year. With the help of a co-chief and our team of slots, I’ve found my voice. And though I still tend to be selective about using it, I’d like to think my hesitation embodies one of the core skills of a good copy editor: knowing how to intervene only when necessary.

Before I end this column, I’d like to thank all the contributors and editors who trusted me and Copy with their work, the slot editors and Copy staff who never failed to lift my mood when the job got hard, and all the Copy people I’ve worked with over past few years who encouraged me to stick with it – through the 3 a.m. print shifts and the endless dangling modifiers. I want to mega shout out Kaiya Pomeroy-Tso, the best co-chief a gal could ask for and someone who has been an unwavering source of support over the past year.

As I reflect on my three and a half years with Copy, I know I ended up in the right place – even if much of this journey felt unintentional. AP says to avoid cliches, but I’m going to sum up this column with one anyway: Life has a funny way of working out. And this experience sure has been funny.

McDonagh was a Copy contributor in 2019, Copy staffer 2019-2020, News contributor 2019-2022, slot editor 2020-2021 and Copy chief 2021-2022.

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Maddie McDonagh | Copy chief
McDonagh is one of the 2021-2022 Copy chiefs and occasionally contributes reports to News. She was previously a 2020-2021 slot editor and a Copy staffer from 2019-2020. She is a fourth-year communication and English student from the San Francisco Bay Area.
McDonagh is one of the 2021-2022 Copy chiefs and occasionally contributes reports to News. She was previously a 2020-2021 slot editor and a Copy staffer from 2019-2020. She is a fourth-year communication and English student from the San Francisco Bay Area.
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