Three years ago I found myself crouched on the floor of Madison’s City-County Building anxiously texting my editor trying to explain why I had missed the steering committee meeting she had assigned me (sorry Gretchen).

I could lie and say I knew how special The Herald was that very night, but realistically I was convinced my fumbled first assignment had gotten me blacklisted from ever reporting in Madison, nay, Wisconsin, again (I was a pretty anxious Sophomore). Luckily, I soon learned The Herald will always be desperate for writers — a constant desperation that in my opinion, adds to our charm.

The following two years were filled with late nights in the office, seemingly never-ending ASM Meetings, last-minute interviews conducted in semi-deserted stairwells and countless articles written through blurry eyes at 3 a.m.

Then everything changed.

On March 14 2020, we made the difficult decision to halt print production and close down the office indefinitely — a little less than a month later, I was hired as Managing Editor.

Suddenly we weren’t racing to last-minute speaking events or huddling around the same barely-working office computer. We were learning how to make Zoom links and trying to figure out what the difference between “digital” and “print” was in our new online world.

To say my year as Managing Editor was unprecedented would be overdone, understated and incomplete. Yes, creating connection, producing content and staying motivated became all the more difficult during the pandemic, but it also made our team even stronger. Every single reporter, editor, copy associate, ad salesperson, PR associate, photographer, illustrator, multimedia creator (hey Katie) and general Herald groupie that contributed to our paper this year more than rose to the challenge.

What’s kept me at The Herald all this time isn’t the warm Hamms, the flavorless hot chocolate mix, or even that one week our mini fridge was full of sheet cake. As clichéd as it sounds, it’s the community.

Freshman year I showed up at my lakeshore dorm a confused, moody 18-year-old homesick for Minneapolis. I spent the first semester buying all my food at Walgreens because I couldn’t figure out where the grocery store was. Joining The Herald made me an engaged member not only of this campus, but of this city. I went from barely knowing what existed beyond lakeshore path to interviewing the mayor, following every local election and knowing where at least eight grocery stores are.

The true magic of The Herald, however, is that while it is orienting lost students in the broader Madison community, it is also enveloping them in its own, smaller, messier —sometimes more dysfunctional — family.

Three years at The Herald meant three years surrounded by some of the most hard working, passionate, thoughtful people you can find on this campus. The friends I made at this paper made me a better writer, editor, leader, team member and person. The weirdos, who for some reason find themselves on the doorstep of 152 W. Johnson, are the glue (idk if they actually use glue on newspapers) that hold this paper together. 

This past year we had to redefine what that community actually looks like. I won’t say playing hangman over Zoom is the same as Bozo Buckets in the boardroom (but tbh I liked it better because I am horrible at Bozo Buckets) but, I am endlessly proud of the connections we were able to foster — even through a screen.

If you look at the history of The Herald, it is evident that our strength comes from adaptability — from a twice-weekly, to a daily, to digital-first — our production and our content has always responded to the needs of the day and I think our Herald community has done the same.

Rebuilding the in-office ~vibe~ next year is going to be a challenge, navigating print in an even more digital-first world will be complex and making The Herald a more equitable and safe space for all UW students will take time, however, witnessing what we have been able to accomplish this past year — in some cases states apart — gives me faith.

I know The Herald will continue to adapt and change, I know next year’s upper management will take the paper in exciting new directions and I know that in 10 years time Hamm’s may no longer be our official drink (jk we cannot afford anything else). I also know that so long as The Herald continues to produce ethical work, train thoughtful journalists and create lifelong friendships, none of the other changes matter.

So @thebadgerherald, keep adapting, keep changing — just not too much.

p.s. Freak squad is superior #thefewtheproud