Letters from the Editor: What you leave behind

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Sun Star staff hoist Editor-in-Chief Spencer Tordoff to celebrate his Alaska Press Club award win for his "Letters from the Editor" column. (Left to right: Josh Hartman, Tiffany Lehnerd, Sarah Manriquez, Ellamarie Quimby, Molly Putman, Mason Schoemaker, Matt Mertes, Kyrie Long). Sam Davneport/ The Northern Light

As editor of the Sun Star, I have the privilege of working with some of the finest and most dedicated students on this campus. Though this has been evident throughout the year, this past weekend offers some of the plainest proof: about twelve hours ago as I write this, we were waking up from a short sleep to start our journey back from Anchorage to Fairbanks. Currently, we’re putting the finishing touches on this year’s penultimate issue—and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in the office who’s had a nap.

The annual Press Club Conference falls during Springfest, meaning those of us who attend don’t get to enjoy the festivities here on campus, but it’s a great opportunity to learn more about our profession. There’s chances to rub elbows and network with folks from newspapers and broadcast outfits throughout the state, and more than a few parties to visit. It’s also a chance to get a bit of prestige for the Sun Star, though we didn’t shine quite so bright this year, landing only one award to last year’s six.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the conference, though, is the litmus it offers of the state of journalism, the collective feeling of reporters from around Alaska. And this year, well, everyone seemed pretty preoccupied. Moods ranged from general alarm to overt exhaustion with state politics, and there were more than a few frustrated volleys exchanged with guest speakers from Outside who insisted upon shying away from “boring” topics like the state budget. The state of the state is precarious at best and those who report on it are all too aware.

The TVs in the hotel lobby provided a contrasting view one morning. It was a perfect illustration of the state of the national media: breathless, alarmist coverage of Russian bombers flying close to the coast of Alaska. This is, for longtime residents, pretty old hat; such aerial maneuvers are usually worth an end-of-program brief on the local news. But between the graphics, analysts and bold fonts you’d think that World War III was imminent—and that you should stay tuned for more non-developments as they don’t happen.

“May you live in interesting times” is erroneously described as a Chinese curse, but it seems that we of this era have been so hexed. The post-factual era is hard on journalists, yes, but it’s hard on everybody as well. In my family I’m the only one who still follows national or international news, and if I’m honest it’s a completely exhausting pursuit. As important as events around the globe may be, in many regards we don’t have control over them. Better to focus, if one can, on events they can control and save their anxiety for later.

Hopefully we’ll have this edition wrapped up before midnight. Then there’s only one more issue before I step down as editor. Though we didn’t return laden with awards this time, I’m proud of our staff, the ways we’ve improved and the work we’ve done over the course of the academic year. I have plenty more thoughts and praise to share in my final column, but I’ll end this one with the words I said as we all raised a glass at the conference’s concluding banquet;

“Here’s to 70 years of journalism, and one year in particular.”

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