A Note from the Editor
Updated: May 20
Senior photo by Bella Barstow.
My friendship with Maxwell Collins led me to discover journalism and this hidden-gem of a newspaper in my sophomore year of high school. Still, it wasn’t until my junior year that journalism became a staunch part of my identity, so much so that I bought a forest green T-shirt, or “uniform,” as I liked to call it, with the words, “Journalism matters'' across it. I wore the shirt just about every Monday of the second semester to signify that those were meeting days for the newspaper staff. By the end of the school year, the shirt was closer to a sage tint. When I wore the shirt, sometimes people thought it witty to ask, “Does it really?” And, on the rare Mondays when I didn’t wear the shirt, they’d joke, “Does it still matter?” The answer to both those questions is, yes, it does. In my junior year of high school, I learned that journalism matters. Throughout my senior year, I have acted as the editor in chief, which was made known this time by a passive aggressive white T-shirt with the position title printed in heavy-handed cursive. This year, following opportunities to delve into pinnacle events that shaped the history of journalism, I learned why journalism matters, more specifically, why it matters to me.
My earliest memory of anything related to journalism was when I was 11-years-old during the 2016 election, the era of “fake news.” I had watched then-presidential candidate Donald Trump mock New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski for his physical disability. I cringed, and was immediately disheartened—left to wallow with my own physical disability. I couldn’t fully process what I was feeling at the time, so I just turned off the TV—and almost turned away from the industry forever. As Collins was walking me to rm. 262 for the first time, the newspaper hub at Mishawaka High School, I recounted this memory, but repressed it, and kept coming back to the Alltold meetings in spite of it.
A part of me wanted to keep coming back. It certainly wasn’t my head. My head was logical. My head was realistic. My heart, meanwhile, was hoping to change my reality. The first thing journalism gave me was the ability to distinguish between head and heart—allowing me to separate rationality from sentimentality. Nowadays, I’m not as good at that as I would like to be, which is probably because my stutter has lessened in its severity, so I’ve gotten pleasantly used to saying what I feel when I feel it. In essence, I’m making up for lost time, and when you’re graduating, there’s a lot you think and feel at once.
I was wrong to assume that I would be the sole senior who went unaffected by senioritis. Presently, I have chalked up graduation to feel like this: it’s a time when you’re apathetic and don’t think you’ll ever be able to feel anything again, but at the stroke of midnight, you catch yourself scrolling through old photos from even just a year ago that hit you with an impending wave of sadness when you know that happiness should be the dominant feeling, so you’re probably just being ungrateful. Meanwhile at school, you don’t want to say or do anything out-of-character that would risk damaging the relationships you’ve spent the past four years building upon, but all these new changes have you questioning the foundation of your character to begin with. Despite this, you fear that talking it out or asking for help will make you appear unstable, when that’s the last thing you want to appear to be, since you have to be on your own in a matter of months. But I digress.
When it comes to writing and reporting, I have been heavily influenced by Nora Ephron, Barbara Walters, and Katharine Graham, but alas, it’s time for me to admit that I am none of those people. I am, instead, Katherine Hill. I might never earn an editor position again, and only recently am I able to comprehend the impact of Trump’s mockery which takes up far too much of my headspace as I get older, acclimated to the real world, and more serious about the profession. Not a day has gone by within this past year that I haven’t feared being unassigned a duty in my Yearbook class or kicked out of the very Alltold meeting that I called to order because, “Ahhhhh, I don’t know what I said. I don’t remember,” to quote Trump’s crass impersonation of Kovaleski. I have anticipated those moments with sheer panic. The reason being that as I get older and surround myself with people of the same interests, when all of the journalism majors are put together in one classroom, for example, it will inevitably be easier to make friends. By that same token, however, my individualistic “gift” will become a shared passion among others, meaning that the gap pertaining to skill level between my peers and me will shrink. Yet, my disability will follow me forever, and so the gap between my peers and me on the sidewalk will indefinitely become larger and larger as I follow them. Never surpassing them, mind you, just trying to catch up.
It’s impossible for me to forget the day when I was finally open with my newspaper advisor, Mrs. Buchmann, about how Trump’s mockery still stung. In response, she held an encased, still packaged Barbie Doll of Ida B. Wells—an African American woman from the late 1800’s who pursued investigative journalism against an endless slew of hateful critics—up to my face at eye-level.
“Do you know who this is?” Mrs. Buchmann asked.
“No,” I blubbered, wiping my eyes with the edge of a tissue from her desk.
“This is Ida B. Wells,” she said. “No one wanted her to be a journalist. Why?”
“Because she was a black woman,” I said, timidly, hoping that the obvious answer was the correct one.
“Uh-huh, and she became a journalist.” The point of the lesson, of course, was that throughout her career, Wells’ differences became her greatest assets. I thought that playing doll was unnecessarily childish at the time, but it proved not to be, as it became something that I will remember forever. Transcribing the memory now, I’m realizing that over the course of my high school career, my differences, too, became my greatest assets. In fact, they always have been, and will continue to be.
In my junior year, I published an opinion piece that I had no idea would go onto change my life for the better. To phrase it any other way is frivolous because the piece gave me back an element of power that I didn’t know I had lost. Sometimes, I wonder if the undertaking was selfish of me, or if the success of it—which can’t be recreated—is all people value me for, as if it’s an indication that I peaked in high school like that one blonde classmate we all remember but never speak of past graduation because she hasn’t done anything with her life since peaking in high school. I have since learned that this isn’t true because while the piece created a moment in my life that sparked metamorphic change within my persona, it did not complete my life. In other words, mountains have several peaks. Writing the piece and watching it flourish taught me that words are powerful. They can be a weapon that cuts deeper than the sword, but if woven correctly, they also can be used to heal the very wound they create. This is a lesson that I have tried to pass along to my staff.
The second thing that journalism gave me is a firmly cemented support system. To do anything well in life, one must be well supported, but I have found that the ideology rings especially true in journalism because of the common misconception that a journalist must know all of the answers to best inform the public. I am guilty of putting this expectation on myself, but the contrary is true. Journalists report the truth and seek to provide the public with clarity, but sometimes, there is very little clarity that can be provided. Despite the precedents set by the 24-hour news cycle, failure to gather immediate answers is not a sign of a failed journalist. In due time, truth trumps any narrative.
For three years, I have kept every audio file—which now all serve as great, self-affirming documentation of my dwindling stutter that was once debilitating—scrap of paper, and email exchange. Going through them in recent weeks, I am beyond grateful for all of the teachers and friends who have lent their insight to an interview as I honed my craft, those who taught and mentored me by helping me mold a hobby, into a passion, into a career, my Yearbook friends, my niche of devoted readers, and especially the 2022 - 23 Alltold staff who I have found great sisterhood in. Taylor Swift is on her Eras Tour. As I enter a new era of my own as a college freshman, I cite from her song Long Live as I write my concluding sentence: I’ve had the time of my life fighting dragons with you.
Campus visit at Ball State University. Photo by Steve Hill.