My year as editor was fueled by collaborative spirit and love of the craft

Sam Royka, Editor-in-Chief. (QUYNH NGUYEN/FOR THE VISTA)

What is the most important aspect of being an editor, of being a leader? I would answer: support. The ability to make clear cut decisions can determine your effectiveness as a leader, but without your team, you row the boat alone. I would like to emphasize all of the fantastic people that write, edit, and create visual art for this paper. Your team is everything. 

Transformative is the key word to describe my experience as editor-in-chief. The most important thing in a leadership position is to recognize the power you have. Your moves in collaboration with your team make or break your success. The relationship you have with your reporters determines everything. 

To reporters: your voice is your power! Growing past fear is one recurring theme that needs both courage and a tender hand. For those of us with anxious tendencies, conquering the fear of the unplanned phone call is no easy task. Fear must always be countered with support in order for courage to grow. Defining courage as recognizing your fear and going forth anyway means that you believe in your own strength. That is something to be proud of. 

Another note, for writers and creatives of all kinds: stop being so hard on yourself. You can edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a nonexistent one. According to one quote usually misattributed to Ernest Hemingway, a writer should “write drunk, edit sober.” The point is not literally about substance use. Rather, it is both poignant and helpful to recognize creation as a messy process. Ask the artists covered in paint over in Evans Hall. 

This is why writers have editors. After the clay has been laid, another pair of eyes takes a knife to trim the excess, to create the final product of fine china. This does not mean that the quality of the first draft was in any way lacking – it means we work together to find the best ways to make the work shine. As a leader, your job is to harness that glow. 

I have found that if a writer does turn in work that isn’t up to our standards, passion is usually the missing key. It is easier to fly confidently if you know which direction you want to go. In order to bloom into the full-fledged version of who you are, you have to care for what you’re doing. If there is no reason why, then not only will you not be interested in writing, the reader won’t be reading. In an interview, someone once asked me, “What are writers paid to do?” The answer may seem simple – to write – but this is incorrect. A writer is paid to be read. Working with the constructive criticism of an editor will take your work leaps and bounds forward simply because it is another perspective.

For example: go ahead and write your papers for finals week. Before you turn them in, briefly change the font to a medium purple, 20 point Comic Sans. Read again. You will catch things that were completely invisible in the sleek determinism of 12 point Times New Roman. Like a good rug, even Arial will hide some dirt. Just make sure you change the font back before submitting. 

As managing editor, I assisted in the coverage of UCO’s budget crisis and the resignation of former President Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar. As editor-in-chief, I’ve supported coverage of the transition into our new president. Building relationships with faculty led to more insight and a deeper connection between The Vista and the campus community. Current Managing Editor Jake Ramsey’s work has only increased that connection and continues to be a reason why this paper shines. As an Editor, it is wise to support and encourage relationship development that you aren’t directly involved in. My experience taught me that everything we build in life is a domino effect.

Speaking also as a graduating senior, everything that you do here matters. Every club, every trip, every class, every paper, and every person you meet will help you grow. This space is a cocoon for you to find not only your career, but also people that you may know for the rest of your life. 

In following your passions, don’t be afraid to explore outside of your major! Two of our reporters are engineering students that love to write. Following what your heart yearns for will often yield experiences that lead you into the right directions later in life. Don’t be afraid to go after something just because it seems unrelated now. You will always gain perspective. 

Leaving UCO with the last solar eclipse visible from the US for the next two decades reminds me of a 1999 song by Baz Luhrmann called “Everybody’s Free” that I encourage you to listen to. Luhrmann describes all the different ways people may go after graduating and dispenses valuable advice. In a nutshell, there are less rules than you think, your internal compass will take you far, and while you’re at it, wear some sunscreen. College is a space for experimentation. Go fearlessly after what you want.

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