Outgoing editor-in-chief Jim Dayton
Four years ago, I didn’t know what The Daily Cardinal was.
I was a high school senior four months away from beginning my time at UW-Madison. I had only been on campus once and had never taken a tour.
At the time, all I really knew from my outsider’s perspective was a bullet-point understanding of what this university was—strong academics, strong athletics and an affinity for alcohol. When I moved into my dorm later that summer, these three staples of our campus culture were indeed my first exposure to college life.
Quickly, however, my UW-Madison experience diverged from my incoming expectation. I was not cut out to study engineering. Noting my lifelong love of writing, I transitioned to journalism and joined The Daily Cardinal.
It was here, in a windowless room filled with secondhand couches and troublesome computers, where I first realized that UW-Madison was so much more than books, sports and beer.
My first few visits to 2142 Vilas Hall remain a blur, as I routinely made a beeline to the sports desk to chat briefly with my editor before leaving soon after. Back then, I had no Cardinal aspirations beyond one day covering Badger football. I was content to do my work as a men’s tennis beat writer and nothing more.
But deep down, every trek to faraway Nielsen Tennis Stadium filled me with wonder. There isn’t much glory in covering collegiate tennis, but I found it fascinating that I had the opportunity to write about sports immediately upon joining the newspaper.
That fascination with The Daily Cardinal gradually surpassed my original goal of football writing. More involvement led first to sports editor (and with it the chance to finally attend Camp Randall in the press box) and then to editor-in-chief. I never would have thought tennis beat writing would lead to management, but here I am.
My path at the Cardinal was substantially motivated by the people around me. I never would have taken on more responsibility if I didn’t grow to love the atmosphere inside our ragtag office. Those days of getting in and getting out seem so far off, replaced by days where I couldn’t wait to see my coworkers-turned-friends.
Despite my nostalgia, this year was not easy. The Daily Cardinal shifted from four days of print production to two and launched a new website. When strategizing for this major transition was the last thing I wanted to do, the people kept me coming back. In particular, Emily Gerber deserves endless credit for being the most reliable and supportive co-editor I could have ever asked for amid all this chaos. It’s impossible to summarize her importance to the Cardinal in so few words.
Ultimately, it was easy to weather my stress when the staff around me was so kind and ambitious. Now our incoming management team, the equally kind and ambitious Theda Berry and Negassi Tesfamichael, will have the chance to lead such a talented group of people and experience the rewards.
What I’m struggling to comprehend, however, is how something once entirely unknown to me when I enrolled here could become my biggest source of pride at this university. No classroom, no football game, no night at the bar could have impacted me more than The Daily Cardinal.
UW-Madison is so much greater than what outsiders perceive our school to be. There are influential communities that go far beyond our stereotype as hard-working, hard-partying Badger fans. Whether your ideal community is a service organization, Greek life or a club sport, get involved and take advantage of the resources offered at our university.
Find your own Daily Cardinal. I’m glad I found mine.
Jim will soon be off to the real world. Send him any advice you have at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Incoming editor-in-chief Theda Berry
I came to UW-Madison last year as a freshman with an obsessive focus on correcting grammatical errors, and found myself a home at the copy desk of The Daily Cardinal. I could not have guessed that I’d feel so comfortable and fulfilled in our office (glorified basement) in Vilas Hall. After my first editorship, I got more involved through the editorial board and then continued on a trajectory that led to running for management.
Friends questioned why I cheerfully described being at work until 2 a.m. They didn’t grasp that this was more than an ordinary job. I have not found another place on campus where students are willing to dedicate more than full-time unpaid hours to a common goal. I am proud of, and often amazed by, the amount of work put in by Cardinal staff. Their incredible dedication is visible daily, but becomes even more apparent when unexpected events happen—protests, crime, other breaking news—and editors are asked to be there, regardless of their other responsibilities.
I am so excited to work with our incoming managing editor Negassi Tesfamichael—who was just casually at the White House—to find ways to distinguish the upcoming year from years past and also to celebrate The Daily Cardinal’s 125th anniversary next spring. This milestone marks 125 years of the Cardinal being an arbiter for student voice. Negassi and I look forward to continuing this tradition of expression, pushing the paper to maximize both print and online production.
We’ve seen an outpouring of student voice through #TheRealUW this semester. Protests, stories posted on social media and art shows have brought attention to an uglier side of our campus. We need to keep experiences of students in the media, in conversation. Branch outside of your group of people, outside of your usual frame of thinking.
The Cardinal can provide information and coverage, but we’re nothing without engagement. That requires students; it requires you. So please, share your thoughts.
Theda is a sophomore majoring in creative writing. Do you have any advice for The Daily Cardinal’s new editor-in-chief? Please email your comments to email@example.com.