I almost quit Spectator multiple times.
Spec seemed so bright and shiny when I first went to an open house. I remember someone saying something about impact, and significance, and community. But during my eight weeks as a trainee in design, learning how to make better graphics and beginning to make them for news articles, I never saw or felt any of that.
Every Sunday or Monday I was told the date I should be into the office—never the same day of the week—to work on a graphic, details about which I wouldn’t get until in the office that night. I tried to plan dinners with friends, tried to plan homework assignments, tried to plan time to sleep, for crying out loud, but—without fail—the emails would come:
“Meeting tonight at 8:30!”
“This has the potential to be a late running graphic”
Or, almost worse, after clearing my evening for Spec receiving another email that read:
“The story is pushed to next week.”
I was overwhelmed. I’d loved graphics and data when I’d started, but in news, graphics were considered afterthoughts. Trying to balance school, work, and a sport on top of it all left me crying in the corner by the office elevator, blanking out over graphics on my laptop screen as I finished them at midnight. I told myself it would get better—training is always busy, someone told me—and so I waited. I stuck it out through the fall semester.
Then, at the start of spring semester, I got an email the day before classes began informing me that I had a graphic due the next night.
I emailed then-design editor Amanda Frame with the subject line “Schedule Conflicts.”
“I will no longer be able to be a staff designer for news,” I wrote, overwhelmed with relief as I hit “send.” We talked in person a few days later—me, certain I was leaving and Amanda hopeful that I would, with some encouragement, stay. She said I could do long-term projects. That it wouldn’t be like fall semester, that I could have agency over my time and work, that I could love what I did again. Clearly, I stayed, working on those long-term projects and so much more afterwards. And Amanda was right. Spec became everything I’d thought and hoped it would be.
Since then, I’ve designed for The Eye, an incredible team that could not be more warm, capable, or innovative. I’ve worked with product, which has taught me everything from better organizing code to better searching for Stack Overflow solutions. I’ve had the privilege—and it has been an absolute privilege—to work with amazing writers, editors, designers, and developers. And as all of these people start to work together more, I am blown away by the success we’ve achieved—from the Manhattanville project to library storage to The Eye’s 1968 issue.
My strongest recommendation to Speccies is this: clearly identify what you want out of your Spectator experience and push to make it happen. Make Spec better! You define this organization, and whether you’re a trainee or editor in chief you help to lead it to wherever it may go next.
I’m sad to leave Spec. I’m sad to leave Cheryl and Diane, Alondra and Isabel, Maya and Juju, Kevin and Billy, Amanda and Katherine, and everyone else I’ve gotten to know here. Thank you for giving Spec impact, significance, and community. And thank you for making it all bright and shiny again—we’ve never worked better together, and I’m so excited to see what you do in the future.
And Amanda—I can’t thank you enough.
Janie Haseman is a senior in the dual B.A. Program Between Columbia University and Sciences Po majoring in political science. She was a special projects manager for the 142nd volume and a staff designer for the 141st and part of the 140th.
Senior columns are pieces in which members of Spectator’s graduating class reflect on what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown from their time at the organization, and are part of Spectator’s 2018 Commencement Issue. To respond to this senior column, or to submit an op-ed, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.