My rookie season in journalism

Cole Jacobson

Even though it’s pretty generic for Chronicle writers to preach the idea of “trying something new” to the underclassmen in their final columns as high school students, joining “The Chronicle” as a senior without any journalism experience was the “something new” that I picked up, so I feel like it would be odd for me to write about anything else.

Going back to my time at the middle school, I had always read the sports sections of “The Spectrum” and “The Chronicle” in pretty good detail, and I had always thought that I might enjoy the process of putting together stories and predictions. I was content in the performing arts program, where I played trumpet from 7th-11th grade, but in the spring of my junior year, a pair of almost simultaneous events finally convinced me to take the leap.

I never wanted to leave the jazz program — I liked the relaxation of the class compared to my academic courses, I had some good friends in the different groups, and I thought (still think) that teacher Shawn Costantino was a total bro — but in April 2014, the initial audition results for the 2014-15 band placements came back, and I was originally slated to be in “Jazz Ensemble” for the third consecutive year.

At around the same time, track and field reporter Tyler Graham ’15 came up and asked me some questions about the team’s season. I thought the idea of going to various sport games and talking to my friends about their respective teams (which is pretty much what I already did) was cool, and being interviewed as an athlete for the first time made me realize that I could enjoy doing that for the Chronicle staff instead of just for fun. Even though Mr. Costantino emailed me during the summer, telling me that a better trumpet had quit the jazz program to open up a potential spot in the higher “Studio Jazz Band” for me, my gut feeling took me to journalism over another year of jazz, and I’m glad I made the choice.

In the fall, I was given the shared role of covering the girls’ golf team with a pair of sophomores, and I didn’t really know what to expect. Due to the team generally playing at the same time as our football practices, I was only able to attend one of their matches during our bye week, but I still found them to have one of the most interesting storylines on campus despite their lack of hype. There were no seniors on the varsity team, and the consistent top two scorers were freshmen Karina Gou ’18 and Josie Baker ’18, but the inexperienced squad still finished 7-1 overall, with the lone loss coming to eventual CIF champion Notre Dame. I thought it was cool to discover a team that isn’t really talked about, and I’ll be thrilled in the fall of 2017 when they’re absolutely shredding their competition and I can say that I discovered them before anyone else.

Having proven myself as a writer, I got thrown into the big leagues in the later two seasons, taking boys’ basketball in the winter and lacrosse in the spring. Since our football team had been eliminated in the first round of our playoffs, and I knew that the boys’ track team wasn’t realistically a title contender, I got far too emotionally attached to the success of these teams, hoping that I could hop on their potential paths to a ring. Even though this sounds ridiculous, I felt serious adrenaline driving away from Chaminade after the basketball team’s upset win there, and I somehow felt like I could have done something different after basketball’s playoff loss against Mission Prep and lacrosse’s postseason defeat to Westlake.

Since both teams played home games on campus and generally played in the evenings, I was actually able to attend the majority of the games for both sports, which made the process even more fun since I’d see the results live instead of emailing the coach to ask who won. Not only did I know the seniors on both teams pretty well, which made the interview process more fun, but I also got to hang out with the student sections during games, mess around on the Twitter feed and briefly get into the HWTV livestream crew. Despite the early playoff exits, covering these teams was a blast, and the fact that I happened to work with two coaches in their last seasons at Harvard-Westlake (Greg Hilliard and Alex Weber) only added more excitement to my work.

Improving as a writer was an obvious plus to joining the Chronicle staff, but I also grew bonds with a group of kids that I wouldn’t ever have really talked to in any other context. I already knew most of the seniors on staff going into the school year, but the underclass friends I’ve made in the sports section have made journalism even more fun. There are far too many members of the sophomore class to list individually, but their time at newspaper and “Big Red” layouts have been awesome. They’re not only a hilarious group of kids (I’ll always remember the infamous “Sophomore Fight Nights”), but they also were arguably as productive for the sports section as the junior and senior classes combined, and I appreciate both the laughs and the InDesign tips that I’ve gotten from them this year.

As for my “PBs” (juniors Bennett Gross ’16, Jonathan Seymour ’16 and Henry Vogel ’16) whom I’ve shared the seventh period class with this year, I have to say you’ve made this year awesome. I didn’t really know any of you well going into the school year, and you’ve all become great friends of mine as we’ve ripped on each other during layouts and pretended to pay attention during class. The national anthem we sang together after a classmate who wished to remain anonymous revealed her affinity for socialism was one of the patriotic moments in my life to date. I truly am grateful that you have helped make my only year on staff so much fun, and I will be looking forward to see what you guys are capable of next year. Even with the other two senior sportswriters (Graham and Audrey Wilson ’15) (and rarely Mila Barzdukas ’15), I knew you guys already, but you’ve definitely become better friends of mine during this year, and I’m appreciative that you immediately took me into the gang (even if it did take you eight months to include me in the “Big Red” staff picture).

With that “Kumbaya” deal out of the way, I’ll get into a bit of a warning. In the real world, any time you try something completely new, there will probably be a bit of a rough adjustment period, and I definitely experienced this at times.

There was a stretch of time early in the basketball season when I didn’t know how to change our cameras to “Sport Mode,” and I ended up getting ripped on for taking humorously atrocious photos of the games.

There was the controversy at the end of our football season, when I was irate at my non-sports-section colleagues for censoring the interview of my friend and teammate Carter Begel ’17 when I felt he was merely expressing passion for the game.

There was the time in late January when my aggression on the Chronicle’s Twitter feed backfired on me, as I tweeted at the “Notre Dame Castle” before tip-off criticizing their lack of a student section before the Knights ended up stunning us 81-77 and their student section’s Twitter was more than happy to respond to me.

There were countless occurrences when I incidentally wrote “oxford commas” in stories or accidentally put the apostrophes in students’ graduating class years facing the wrong direction, and received the business from my teachers and editors.

There was another time on the Twitter feed where I referenced a crude joke comparing a varsity basketball player to a notorious Dr. Seuss villain, and I only realized that it was mean and removed it from the website after he had seen it.

There were countless times during school days when the majority of the Chronicle students and teachers would be involved in some feminism discussion and I wanted to leave my body and head to another dimension.

There were countless times when I took the dejected trip down the Weiler Hall sidewalk after yet another case of printer failure prevented me from showing my stories to the teachers/editors.

There were times — really, every home basketball game — when I would refuse to leave the student section while taking pictures and subsequently get criticized by my colleagues for getting consistently poor angles.

Still, when looking back at the year as a whole, I see these events with a sense of humor instead of legitimate regret. Ultimately, even though I struggled at times, the positives of the year unquestionably outweighed the negatives; I not only discovered a new talent that I had been wanting to try for several years, but I also made a new group of friends that I simply wouldn’t have encountered if I had stayed in the jazz program. To anyone who made it to the end of this story, if there’s something you’ve always thought might be fun — whether it’s a new class, a new sport, or some out-of-school hobby —  but never had the guts to try, just go for it. If you like it, you’ll make memories that will last for a lifetime; even if you don’t, the year will be over before you know it.