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From daily print to The Weekly Bruin: persevering through unprecedented times -30-

Justin Jung stands for a portrait. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Justin Jung

June 11, 2023 10:01 p.m.

I was on my phone in the living room, about to join my parents for breakfast for the first time in months, when I learned that I got into UCLA.

Growing up in a middle-class Korean American household, my dad’s work schedule meant that I rarely had the opportunity to enjoy a family breakfast before I went to school. Each opportunity to do so – in this case because the AP exam schedule afforded me a couple extra hours that morning – was cherished.

Unsurprisingly, my dad started to get frustrated, then angry as I repeatedly shouted back, “Just a couple minutes!” hunched over on the couch with eyes glued to my phone.

Unbeknownst to him, however, I wasn’t scrolling Instagram or playing Clash of Clans; I had just received an email from UCLA that there was an update on my waitlisted status for freshman admission.

Moments later, there it was on my screen: “Congratulations! It is our great pleasure to –” and I stopped reading, shouted, “Oh my god!” and ran into the dining room.

Joining the Daily Bruin was just as unexpected as that acceptance letter. I didn’t have any prior experience with journalism when I wrote my intern application, and even changed my mind twice about which section to apply for – Photo, then Opinion before finally settling on News. In fact, I actually decided to apply on a whim, at the light suggestion of my neighbor, close friend and Copy alumnus Eileen.

I started out with as closed a mind one could have, never imagining that the paper would become anything more than mere resume fodder. Walking to my first assignment desk, I expected to find a “normal office,” but I found anything but that.

That night, I watched staffers kick around a makeshift soccer ball in a crowded newsroom, intermittently shouting, “Duck!” at their colleagues before crashing into the Design computers.

A few weeks later, I listened as slot editors argued past midnight over whether they should use the spelling “email” or “emailed” statement. I wondered to myself why on Earth anyone would voluntarily stay in Kerckhoff Hall that late over just two letters. I learned why, and more than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams, in my freshman year at The Bruin.

In January, our campus politics team uncovered a problematic lack of transparency in student government accounting, which led to our “white whale” news scoop. We spent a year chasing down the story of missing budget reports for $2.7 million in student fees, and I never stopped working in watchdog journalism, later joining our investigative journalism team.

I was in the newsroom nearly every day in my first year, whether I had an assignment or not, because I wanted to soak everything in and be of help wherever I could. As the last five-day print paper in the UC, it was up to all of us to keep our standards high and assignments on time.

Then, the pandemic hit.

The supportive colleagues and close friends I’d surrounded myself with went home, but despite our best efforts to keep things afloat, production over Slack just wasn’t the same.

Our five-day print schedule collapsed, and over the next couple years, I watched the paper bleed institutional knowledge as successive classes of editors graduated and moved on. Over time, we simply forgot how to do many things, and standards for reporting and timeliness eroded as well.

By its very nature as a student newspaper, The Bruin is transitory. Nearly all Bruin staff will stay at most four years – and most, far less – and that doesn’t leave much room to build, maintain and pass on institutional knowledge.

COVID-19 and lockdowns simply made a tough situation even more untenable.

Watching this happen to the campus organization that I’d identified with first and foremost was like heartbreak, blue like I’d never known.

I continued to work on big stories and shoot for photo galleries, but even after coming back – first hybrid, then in-person – things just weren’t the same.

We’ve grappled with the pandemic’s disruption in various ways, from denial to bargaining and finding a silver lining in the newfound opportunity to reevaluate archaic practices and policies. Hopefully, that’s enough.

I truly owe everything to those who came before me and stuck it through with me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you: Kristie, Jintak, David G., Kate, Sameera, Julia, Martín, Melissa, Anushka, Victoria, Christine, David R., Lauren, Ashley, Vivian and Scott.

For those who will still be at The Bruin come fall, I wish you the very best of luck and can’t wait to see what you come up with: Constanza, Ally, Matthew, Catherine, Lex, Ben, Richelle, Suzy and Ollie.

Marilyn, you believed in me before anyone else and turned my ambition into drive. You were there to catch me when I stumbled with my first steps as a freshman reporter, and you saw me off as I bloomed in editorship.

Maanas, you were the rock in my darkest times, the first person I’d call each time I seriously considered giving up on The Bruin. You made me your partner, took risks with me and celebrated with me when they paid off. I couldn’t have made it here without you.

To the Daily Bruin: over the past four years, you’ve given me many sleepless nights and heartache, but also my lifelong friends and an unforgettable opportunity for growth. But most importantly, you gave me a place at UCLA to call home.

Jung was a News reporter and photographer 2019-2020, assistant Enterprise editor 2020-2021, city and crime editor 2021-2022, campus politics editor 2022 and senior staff 2022-2023.

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Justin Jung | News senior staff
Jung is a senior staff reporter and a photographer for the Bruin. He was a 2021-2022 assistant News editor for the campus politics and city and crime beats. Jung was also the 2020-2021 assistant Enterprise editor. Jung is a fourth-year global studies student.
Jung is a senior staff reporter and a photographer for the Bruin. He was a 2021-2022 assistant News editor for the campus politics and city and crime beats. Jung was also the 2020-2021 assistant Enterprise editor. Jung is a fourth-year global studies student.
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