Within the first few weeks of my freshman year I joined The Vector Newspaper. I had never written for a newspaper before—in fact, I had hardly even read newspapers before. But, I loved writing and I thought I had a lot to offer to the paper.
My start was in covering politics: gun laws in New Jersey, corporations not paying taxes and reading more of Trump’s Twitter account than I could have imagined. Fellow student, Anuj Patel and I even drove out to Montclair State University to help NJ Spotlight with updating a live map of the gubernatorial election on the night that Phil Murphy was elected as governor of New Jersey (my car also got T-boned at an intersection on the way over, but that’s a story for another time).
As I put more all-nighters into writing articles and rose to senior staff writer, I wanted to become the managing editor of the paper—the person who is in charge of all story ideas and written content. I laid out my plan for how to ‘fix’ the paper to a room where most people didn’t know me and, rightfully so, I lost that election. Actually, someone later told me that it wasn’t even close. Ouch.
I kept writing, doing reviews and writing articles that I was more passionate about. I started focusing more on interviewing people and trying to become an actual journalist. Over the last four years, I’ve picked up a journalism minor here (yes, they offer a journalism minor at NJIT). One thing I learned that wasn’t in a journalism class, though, was from reflecting on why I lost my first election. It wasn’t necessarily because I wrote worse or couldn’t take the challenge—and it is a challenge—but it was because I didn’t know anybody there. Over that year I built friendships and relationships with people in Vector that I continue to hold. I took the same approach to my journalism, getting to know people all over campus because when I needed them for a story they would be there for a quote or to point me in the right direction.
I became managing editor for my junior year, squeaking through another tough election thanks to my new friends vouching for me. I learned a leadership style on the job that I try to apply to other aspects of my life: I’m not telling workers to do something, I’m asking friends for help. Every person that wrote for me, in my eyes, was doing me a favor because I wouldn’t have to write that article and they made me look good in my position. I even spent about ten hours making a full Thanksgiving dinner for the entire staff for a meeting, including a ten-pound turkey that I baked in my Oak Hall dorm room oven.
The next thing I learned was how to teach people. Anyone can tell people what to do, but when someone comes in and tells me that they want to write, it was up to me to bring the best out of them. One time, I worked all day at my job as an EMT, drove back to Newark after a long shift, sat off to the side at a meeting that one of the writers was in for another club until he was done, and spent the next half hour revising an article together because that was the only time he was free. One of my favorite feelings over the last four years has been to see writers produce great work because they were able to unlock the potential that we all have.
The next lesson, and the most important one that I learned from being in the paper, is that it’s not about me. Movies like “Spotlight” and “The Post” make journalism out to be a glorious pursuit where you’re trying to uncover a scandal. My favorite articles to write ended up being club spotlights and on-campus news. When I sat in on meetings for small or new organizations, talked to their leaders, took photos of events and briefly became part of their community, I felt the passion that lives through this campus. When I’ve talked to NJIT’s leadership, the same passion can be heard in their voice—these aren’t just names and titles on emails but rather people who come here every day to make this community a better place.
This past and final year, I have been the editor-in-chief of the paper and gotten to step back from the daily grind of being the managing editor. I got to lead an amazing team through a global pandemic, where we had to quickly adjust to how we would cover a mostly empty campus with almost no events. Our managing editor, Katherine Ji, was able to step up to the plate and think of great stories every week. Our executive editor, Sandra Raju, assembled a team that rewrote our entire layout guidelines and started a graphic design branch of the layout team. Sreya Das, our web and multimedia editor, was instrumental in keeping the paper alive after we stopped printing and went fully virtual, and our business manager, Mark Pothen, was able to pivot his role from making sure papers were printed to taking a leading role in getting our website redeveloped. Finally, our photography editor, Ethan O’Malley, was given a limited amount of material to work with considering the campus has only recently begun to open back up, but he has been flexible in taking assignments and contributed heavily to the creative process of the paper.
Kristie Damell, our Director of Student Life, would meet with me every month, checking in on how the paper is doing and how our Eboard was doing. She’s given us all of the support that we could want from an administrative perspective and as a mentor for the club, helping the leadership do our jobs well.
I learned from many people, including our advisor, Miriam Ascarelli, who always gave us the tools to become better journalists and a better paper. Miriam gave out her cell phone number to Eboard members, stayed up past midnight when we were struggling to edit a very long story and has always emphasized that we try to prioritize ourselves and our health before crashing and burning from working on the paper.
Finally, I would like to thank every person who has contributed to the paper. We come to this school to get a degree and get ready for our future, but there are some who stop to uplift the community. Without the many people who decided to stop by the Vector office or join the Vector Discord or join our Friday meetings, we wouldn’t have a paper. While covering the communities that are built throughout NJIT, we’ve built our own community that’s stronger than I could have ever imagined. This year alone, we’ve had five different members win state or regional awards for the work they’ve produced for us. More importantly, we’ve told the stories on campus that matter.
One of my other big joys that I’ve gotten over the last few years is when I see someone reading the paper or someone mentions an article in the paper. At the end of the day, The Vector—and journalism as a whole—is about telling stories. After four years, it’s hard to think about giving all of this up and moving on. But, looking around at the wonderful talent that we have in our little newsroom, the support that we receive and the many more stories to be told around campus, I know that this isn’t about me. The Vector that I’m leaving behind will keep giving voice to those stories and keep moving forward with magnitude and direction.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me grow over the last four years. I’ve become a better writer, a better leader and better person from all of the influences that have been around me, and The Vector will always be an integral part of my college experience. I thank you for reading the paper and continuing to support our quirky group of journalists, and I wish the new Eboard the best of luck for the upcoming year.
Daniil Ivanov, 2020-21 Editor-in-Chief, 2019-20 Managing Editor