The Harbinger Online

Senior Column: Jack Howland, Print Co-Head Copy Editor

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Jack Howland

Position: Print Co-Head Copy Editor

College: University of Missouri

Major: Journalism





As a freshman, I always had an idea of what my senior column might be like.

I thought maybe I would try to work lyrics from “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” into my opening so I could one day show the grandkids how I used to be funny. Or perhaps I would confront readers on how peeved I was when they crinkled up that 32-page, bi-weekly beauty. Or maybe, just maybe, I would put the entire thing in the Webdings font and let our reading audience try to decode “mailbox, telephone, schoolbus, golf pin” for 900 words. Whatever it was, I knew I wanted it to be one last journalistic “boo-ya!” to send me out with a bang.

But, as the end is in sight and graduation announcements are pouring in, it’s slowly starting to hit me — my high school journalism career, like everything else right now, is a goodbye. It’s a farewell to room 521 and its mountains of newsprint Harbingers that would give Al Gore a heart attack. It’s goodbye to that Chester fella and the sinking feeling in my stomach when I would get back a draft covered in more red ink than black. And as I sat down to write what was supposed to be a final hoorah, I realized that the end of high school journalism isn’t the “boo-ya!” I thought it would be. Rather, it feels more like I was punched in the gut or read a Nicholas Spark’s novel where the blonde-haired hunk goes off to war. Hell, it’s sad.

I’ve realized that saying goodbye to journalism is saying goodbye to something that helped me find my way through high school.

I know it’s hard to believe, but I was a pretty timid freshman. The bronzed, confident co-head copy editor and cross country captain you loyal Harbinger readers have come to love used to be a pretty shy, awkward freshman stereotype. When my mom dropped me off to school, I shuffled from class to class just wanting to blend in. I played football because it seemed like the popular choice. I sat at a lunch table with friends from middle school so I wouldn’t have to sell myself to new people like a used car.

Then came second semester. I got the job of staff writer on the Harbinger and was thrilled to have the chance to see my name on a byline and my name at the bottom corner of the staff box in a font so small you needed a magnifying glass. But I was proud. I remember my first deadline night from that year and the pain in my spine as I hunched over a laptop and a hastily thrown together review of “Slumdog Millionaire.” What I recall even more was my copy editor Tim Shedor’s booming, accusatory voice directed at a page designer for putting only half of my story in the paper and the rest online. He was mad as hell that they would do that to my first piece.

I felt like there was a certain passion in journalism. I felt like everyone on staff cared about the stories they were telling and the content that was going out to the masses. And as I’ve continued on as a part of Harbinger, I’ve felt it too. I felt it when I sarcastically wrote about living at home to the dismay and disappointment of my parents. I felt it at the deadline nights when I proudly showcased my suburban-white-boy dance moves to hastily thrown together rap songs about asses. I felt it when I poured out tears in front of my mom after talking to someone named Natalie who proved you can still be optimistic in the face of stage four cancer.

And the Harbinger helped me in my own life, too. In a Dallas workshop, I was able to talk about my own problems with obsessive compulsions that I had never told anyone about before. Writing was like an outlet. But journalism also gave me friends that I will have until the day I die and memories I hope to hold onto like an old, dusty photo album. Like singing “Dynamite” with a bunch of obnoxious j-kids after taking home the “best in show” award. Or sitting in room 521 editing pages until the janitors made us leave.

And now, it’s ending. Close to it, anyway. I have reluctantly reached the closing stretch of my final column as a Harbie. I know I may not have hidden a secret message in my story that you can only see by flipping the page upside down and turning the lights off. I know I didn’t tell you the prolonged and overdue story about the time at deadline night when Goble, or Toni, or Heady, or Kennedy or Grant did that one embarrassing thing I’ll never forget. But that’s OK.

I’ve come to the realization that I don’t have to go out with an over-the-top bang that has an exclamation point at the end like I always thought I did. I don’t have to go out with a dull whimper, either. Sometimes it’s just fine to sit back, close your eyes and think about the proverbial journey. And as I think about that journey, I really feel like I have one more thing to say to my love, high school journalism. I’m not going to put it in Webdings. I’m not even going to ask you to play “Time Of My Life” while you read it.

I just want to say, it’s been real.

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