Forum editor writes first, last column

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Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: A 30 column is a chance for departing permanent staff to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in The Daily Texan’s basement office. The term comes from the old typesetting mark (-30-) to denote the end of a line.

To wit, it all started with a casual suggestion. Laura mentioned something about a forum. “It’ll be fun,” she said. “You’ll learn cool new skills and get to publish whatever you want!” We talked about it a little more. Forum, she explained, was a weekly opinion page, featuring people who didn’t work for the paper. Other students, faculty, community organizers, politicians. I thought it sounded interesting.

(Incidentally, two of her three claims turned out to be true. Apparently, “whatever you want” was not intended to be taken literally. It actually means “whatever you want, as long as it’s factually accurate, relevant, professionally written and not being published entirely as a meme.” This was only an issue once or twice a week.)

Three months later, I found myself in the basement, scrambling to find content at the last minute and bungling basic functions on InDesign. But we learned, and things got better. We pulled off a surprising number of pages with an actual cohesive theme, from environmentalism, to women’s health, to scientific advocacy to gun rights. Rena and Liza showed us some design tricks, and our pages started to have an actual degree of artistic merit.

I think there’s something really valuable about the concept of Forum. We always hear about echo chambers, polarization, all the other political problem buzzwords. This is our way of pushing back. Anyone can have their opinion published in the Texan. It doesn’t matter what that opinion is: It just matters that you can defend it with logic and evidence. On top of that, our editors and columnists are extremely talented, but we don’t know everything. To fill in the blanks, we need expert faculty, we need community leaders, and we need you.

Of course, nothing I did here would have been possible without some key people.

Mom and Dad, thank you for your endless advice and encouragement. When I wasn’t sure I could take on this role, you gave me the extra enthusiasm to go for it, and I’m really glad you did.

Zoe, thank you for your careful comments and creative suggestions and for always listening to my opinions, even when they’re definitely wrong. You’re the best.

Liza, you have a bright future, probably. Given how neatly you always dismiss my borderline libelous suggestions, I think the Opinion department can look forward to another year without a major lawsuit. Good luck, even though you really don’t need it.

Janhavi, it’s been a pleasure highlighting perspectives with you. Between your people and my people, we apparently know quite a few people. I’m not sure how we actually managed to meet the deadline every week, but there was always something on the page the following morning. We did it.

Which leaves Laura. Thank you for patiently putting up with all my ideas, both the ridiculous and the slightly less ridiculous. You gave me the authority to reach our audience with timeliness. If not for your guidance, I probably still wouldn’t know which end of a column is which. But really, without you, none of this would have happened in the first place. I look forward to your future career as a high-level executive.

This was my last column, but there’s a fun twist. Thanks to the nature of my job, it was also my first. 

What a story!

Shirvaikar is a math and economics major from Frisco, TX.