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Take two: Discovering my direction by cross-training at The Bruin -30-

Natalie Agnew stands for a portrait. (Michael Gallagher/Assistant Photo editor)

By Natalie Agnew

June 10, 2024 9:05 p.m.

Being called a “corny ass nerd” in the comments on my first album review was one of the highlights of my life.

I entered the Daily Bruin as a News intern during the COVID-19 pandemic, trained in Copy on a whim and became a slot editor. My first contribution to Arts was writing 10 weekly episode recaps and the aforementioned album review. Cross-training in different sections was my playground, and like an effective chameleon, I shifted positions until I found what worked for me. I’m now finishing my tenure as co-Copy chief, and in retrospect, my only regret is not experimenting even more.

My introductory experience in the newsroom was doing interviews in my makeshift garage workspace during my first online quarter of college. As an intern on the campus politics beat, my first article was about efforts to increase pass-no-pass leniency across departments, riveting stuff. No matter the topic, I went all in, and reporting was a way to walk through Bruin Walk even though I lived 400 miles away.

During winter 2021, I decided to complete Online training – which I did not finish because I could not code to save my life – and Copy training to improve my writing skills. That first day puzzling through missing commas and AP style intricacies was a revelation. What began as a stand-alone Zoom training turned into picking up weekly rimming shifts. For context, “rimming” is a bizarre, outdated term that we refuse to retire. I jumped to take the three-hour test to proofread the newspaper without realizing what I was signing up for and never looked back.

Finally stepping foot on campus my second year, the plant-garnished Daily Bruin office became my home away from the dorm, spending weekly 2 a.m. shifts proofreading the paper. I’ll never forget the basketball season preview that lasted until 3:48 a.m. when I could barely read the words on the page. With late-night bonding, copy editing was where I found my place, and the perfectionism that frustratingly restricted me as a writer was an asset.

That year, I hung up my News reporter hat and Otter.ai subscription for good, switching gears to become a slot editor.

Slotting into editorship on the Copy desk was the best decision I made, and I loved being in the center of the action, publishing every story with a close-knit team. Our editor meetings were always the highlight of my week. Throughout my third year at The Bruin, I also dabbled in Sports writing with one overly dramatic beach volleyball preview and sparred with InDesign on print design shifts. Spring sprung and I cross-trained in Arts for the sole purpose of writing weekly episode recaps of my favorite show’s final season, “Succession.”

Arts writing was a way to transmit my infatuation with film and television to an audience, and I still remember the first time someone told me my recaps made them want to watch the show. I had this new, exciting avenue to exercise my creativity as well as hone my critical voice.

My first review of a Bebe Rexha album got hilariously infamous hate comments that would make the perfect Daily Bruin gravestone. Kindling my passion for film into a flame, I created a Slack channel, #movies-of-db, with a couple of friends to share Letterboxd reviews. One night, we commandeered the office TV to watch 2022’s “Persuasion” – two stars, would not recommend it.

Applying for editing positions in my fourth year, I happily put my name in the ring for Copy chief to continue building the community that had already given so much to me. I shook hands with my co-Copy chief running mate at a chicken-eating competition, don’t ask, and that was that. Admittedly, this year was tough for the Copy desk, but there was never any doubt in the team we built around us, and that’s what I’ll remember.

I finally found my footing in The Bruin as a co-Copy chief and Arts contributor without tripping over myself to commit to every section. I acquired a propensity for writing film reviews to the extent I got kind of addicted to it.

Oppenheimer,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Poor Things,” “Challengers” and more, every time was a chance to do a director deep dive and my best writing under deadline pressure. I think I rewatched all 11 Christopher Nolan movies before reviewing “Oppenheimer.” Post-Daily Bruin, I have no plans to stop penning reviews, no matter what form it takes – a blog, maybe – but that feels a little 2000s.

Between skipped classes, I gained an outlet and community I had always wanted in The Bruin office contributing across sections and chatting with members of the roughly 600-person staff. Writing this column feels like a bittersweet signature on the dotted line that says, “the end.” But let’s be honest, I’ll probably write another article before graduation, so closing the book on this period is a little premature.

To own the corniness: this goodbye is only the beginning of the next chapter.

Agnew was co-Copy chief 2023-2024, slot editor 2022-2023, Copy staff 2021, and Arts, News and Sports senior staff.

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