Four years and countless questions later: What have I learned at The Bruin? -30-
Justin Huwe stands for a portrait. (Julia Zhou/Assistant Photo editor)
By Justin Huwe
June 11, 2023 9:21 p.m.
On April 21, 2020, I received a message that would drastically change the course of my whole college experience.
“Since applications are coming up, I was wondering if you were somewhat interested in the PRIME content editor position?”
I had spent the day celebrating my dad’s 50th birthday at home – a day I hadn’t anticipated spending with him until the COVID-19 pandemic brought me back to the Bay Area for spring quarter. As we prepared to cut his cake, I read the message on my phone once, then twice and then a couple more times just to be safe.
The message was from Anushka Jain, who was the soon-to-be director of PRIME, the Daily Bruin’s quarterly magazine. I had joined the magazine the previous October and had quickly grown to love the people I’d met and the work we produced. But even though I knew editor applications were coming up, I had already talked myself out of applying. I was too young, I thought, and too inexperienced. So I decided to not even message Anushka with questions I had about the role.
But one line from Anushka’s message kept ringing in my head: “I know sometimes it can be a little bit daunting to reach out first, so I wanted to ask!”
Up until that point, I had only published one story for PRIME. What qualified me to help lead the section and edit other people’s stories? I didn’t have a good answer to that question, so I resolved to wait until the following year to apply.
Anushka’s message, however, got my gears turning. She wouldn’t have reached out if she didn’t think I was capable, right? What did I have to lose by applying that year?
So I did it. I applied to be the PRIME content editor. To this day, I’m so happy I did.
Being an editor at the Daily Bruin has been so much more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. Having the privilege of helping writers tell stories that truly impact the UCLA community is an experience unlike any other. As cheesy as it sounds, I’ve grown over the past three years in ways I didn’t think were possible.
More than anything, I learned the power of asking questions.
During my two years leading PRIME, there was rarely a day where I didn’t ask questions. Whether I was asking Anushka editing questions or peppering upper management with questions about Daily Bruin policy, I learned that life happens through questions. Yes, reporters ask questions – but editors do, too. Is it poor journalism ethics to put a portrait of a PRIME writer on the front of the magazine? What do you do when a media relations representative swears something they told you was off the record after you published it?
These are just some of the million and one questions I’ve asked while at The Bruin. And each of these questions has provoked thoughtful and impassioned conversations. I learned so much through talking with Anushka and Samantha Joseph on Zoom during my first year as an editor, as virtual laughs interspersed my frequent questions. And there was rarely a decision that was made at PRIME during my second year as an editor without there first being a conversation between me and my lovely fellow editors, Abi Siatkowski and Emily Dembinski.
In my last year at The Bruin, I spent working on an entirely different section of the paper: Enterprise. After three years at PRIME, I wanted to take everything I had learned and throw myself into investigative journalism. First and foremost, my goal was to revamp the section after a 600-day dry spell of not publishing articles. But on a deeper level, I wanted to create another space at the paper where, like PRIME, people would feel a strong sense of community culture, a place where friendships blossom and folks feel comfortable asking questions.
For me, this was a year of asking more questions than ever. Without a previous background in investigative journalism, I entered excited to learn and desperate for answers. A year later, as I leave the section, I’m so grateful for the people who joined me along the way and contemplated countless questions as we worked to rebuild Enterprise, one story at a time. To my team leaders Zinnia Finn and Dylan Tzung, I can’t put into words how grateful I am that you followed me from PRIME to try investigations. And to this year’s Enterprise reporters, thanks for taking a chance and joining the effort to truly make Enterprise a force to be reckoned with. It’s been awesome watching you hold the university’s feet to the fire with your ceaseless questions.
Coming into college, I was under the false impression that confidence is something you innately have, not something you develop over time. I believed confident people rarely asked questions because they always had the answers. What I’ve learned, though, is that being more certain of yourself comes with time, with lots and lots of questions.
As I near graduation and reflect on the past four years, I cannot imagine what my life would have become if Anushka hadn’t asked me that fateful question on April 21. How different would my life have been? Who would and wouldn’t I have met and grown close with? I’m so grateful for the amazing friends I’ve made along the way, including Kate Green, Ramona Mukherji, Cecile Wu, Megan Fu and Megan Tagami, just to name a few. Moreover, I’m thankful for the dedicated writers I’ve worked with over the years, to whom I hope to have provided a sense of mentorship as Anushka did to me.
A couple of months ago, Anushka gave me a handwritten graduation card. In it, she revealed something she had never told me before.
“I remember stress-messaging my Arts friends when I was thinking about content editors and I was like ‘ugh Justin doesn’t seem interested’ and THANKFULLY they convinced me to just reach out to you.”
Looking back now, I’m thankful, too.
Huwe was a PRIME contributor 2019-2020, PRIME content editor 2020-2021, PRIME director 2021-2022 and Enterprise editor 2022-2023.