Editor-in-Chief Kaitlyn Tom reflects on her time on The Coat of Arms. Staff photo by Kaitlyn Tom.
By Kaitlyn Tom
When I joined the Coat of Arms as a freshman, I had no idea that I would spend the next four years defending my stories when not just students, but teachers, found a fault in either what I had written or edited. I had no idea that my next four years would involve meetings with the administration and constantly reminding my peers that the Coat of Arms isn’t on anyone’s “side”; we’re not pawns of the administration.
This final letter from the editor is supposed to be a musing on my most important takeaway from working on this paper, and I have to be honest, it’s difficult to write something that doesn’t sound generic or repeat the same themes. During my time on this paper, I’ve learned to go out of my way to report on things I know nothing about. I’ve learned the importance of making friends with people I’d normally never talk to. I’ve also learned the reward that comes with commitment. But perhaps the biggest lesson that I’ve learned from being part of this publication is not to step outside of my comfort zone, make new friends or commit myself to an activity, but it’s that if I expect to be treated as an adult, I need to act like one.
When playing on a high school sports team or being in a high school production, no one expects you to perform at a professional level. If a soccer player misses the goal during a playoff game, they might get some flack from their teammates, but their teachers will tell them encouraging messages, urging them to keep on trying and not let this one small mistake prevent them from larger success. Being a student journalist though, we don’t get those kind of excuses. If we make a mistake, we can’t tell ourselves that it’s okay since we’re only student journalists without a degree in neither English nor Journalism; most of us barely have three years of meager journalism training. If we publish a wrong headline, we get nasty comments on our website and the occasional snide remarks on our social media pages. When we make a mistake, people notice and they point out that we’re wrong, rightfully so. We become blacklisted in their eyes, the hallmark of fake news, never to be trusted again.
For a long time, I thought that this was unfair. It was unfair to me that I had to be held to the standard of veteran journalists who majored in journalism at accredited universities. It was unfair to me that teachers made me upset not because of a bad grade, but because of their hurtful remarks on social media. It was unfair to me that I was just trying something out but being attacked for not being professional enough.
It wasn’t until this year that I realized how hypocritical my thoughts were. Since I’ve become a teenager, I’ve wanted to be treated like an adult. Now, I was being tested by trial by fire. I couldn’t complain because I was getting exactly what I had wanted. Not having any excuses to fall back on for not doing a good job used to be unfair to me, but now it pushes me to work harder.
Leaving the Coat of Arms, I’m glad that I’ve had to face the problems that have come my way. While these problems were monolithic at times, I see them as character-building tests where I was asked to step up and did just that. As a publication, we’ve made mistakes and as an individual, I’ve made the wrong call on some tough decisions. I regret those mistakes but I’m not upset that I made them — they taught me to be in charge of my own work and take pride in what I produce.