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Pam Selman is the Editor-at-Large at The Badger Herald.

A set of old Herald sweatshirts bears the words, “Dangerously close to cult status.” Perhaps the saying is a bit presumptuous and just a tad politically incorrect. But it is also entirely true. I have to admit the saying has real merit when it comes to the Herald family – it certainly captures the spirit of who we are and what we do.

The Herald is remarkably different than any other student newspaper in the country. I could point to the Herald’s complete independence from the university, the production schedule it runs on or the environment it thrives in pitted up against another student paper on campus each day.

Yet, what I keep coming back to when I try to explain the meaning the Herald holds for me and why it is so different than anything else I could have done with my college tenure is the dedication Heralders demonstrate day in and day out. It is remarkable.

This dedication has, from time to time, broken each one of us in one way or another, myself included. I have seen my fellow comrades give literal meaning to the adage of pouring blood, sweat and tears into a product.

Whether the circumstances have called for making a newspaper sans Internet at three in the morning, starving yourself for an entire day in order to reserve your spot in committee hearings in the midst of the collective bargaining protests or hiding your mono diagnosis so that the show can go on, the Herald’s editorial team has truly proven itself to be one of a kind.

The Herald takes a lot from its staffers – academics, sleep and sanity are just a few of the frequenters on the “reasons why you shouldn’t do this to yourself” list. Yet the return it provides is something so unique, so special and so empowering that even my parents now recognize the trade-off is well worthwhile.

When I started out as a baby Heralder – an overly eager freshman who made the trek up the still breathtaking Herald stairs (no really, breath-taking) before the first day of my first year of college had even begun – I was what some would call a know-it-all.

What I failed to realize, though, was that the Herald would continue to teach me lessons about journalism, life and tough luck each day for the next three years. I’d like to think I’ve grown quite a bit as a person and a journalist since that first day.

Sure, the Herald has instilled in me a level of confidence and knowledge that sometimes allows me to mirror that know-it-all freshman, but at least now I know – well, most of the time, anyways – the appropriate level of arrogance necessary to succeed.

The Herald has given me the chance to see the city I now view as my own through a lens that would otherwise have been severely out of focus. I have gained invaluable relationships with sources who have taught me more about Madison than I ever dreamt was possible. While Memorial Union Terrace chairs and Saturday mornings at the Dane County Farmers’ Market will always hold a special place in my heart, I’ve learned to expand my appreciation of what a University of Wisconsin degree can mean and the significance of the city around me. Some of these sources have impacted my life in ways they might not ever realize, and for that I will forever be grateful.

Our readership has also taught me lessons that I will never forget, whether I wanted to learn them or not. Having spent four semesters on the news team, I’ve felt the shame of getting it wrong, marring a name or being scooped on the story. As an opinion columnist, I’ve realized the world exists outside my bubble and my opinion is not always right or popular, but it is my own.

And most importantly, I’ve gained more than I ever imagined from the Herald itself and the staffers who give their all to make the Herald their own. I’m not one of those overly sentimental people who deem everyone their best friend or remember every event in shining lights. Optimism has never really been my thing. But the only way I can describe these people — who I have worked and grown with, disagreed with or consistently missed the 2 a.m. deadline with — is my Herald family.

It’s truly been a blast, and I couldn’t have asked for a better or more inspired team of gentle clowns to run with. And because the Herald never really lets you out of its grip – no matter how hard you try – I know that this column might be goodbye to my writing days, but my love for the Herald will always ring true.

Pamela Selman ([email protected]is currently the editor-at-large and chair of the board of directors. She will be graduating with a double major in political science and strategic communications. She will be moving to Chicago in July to join the corporate communications team at Edelman.