A whim that changed my college experience

Sara Khorshidi, Director of Print

I joined The Observer on a whim. I had never had any journalism experience before, much less any interest in it. In October of my freshman year, my closest friend, Deeksha Gollamudi, a member of The Observer’s social media team, told me that The Observer was desperate for copy editors. “If you don’t have too much going on right now, you should totally apply, I’m sure they’d take you,” she said. “Plus they pay.” 

That was good enough for me. Plus, Deeksha would be there, so at least I would have her if things went south.

Within two weeks, I had joined Chris Markham and Aura Rossy in the tiny team of copy editors The Observer had accumulated. I was being trained by one of the co-directors of print, Won Hee Kim, who was instantly the sweetest and most welcoming presence to the slightly overwhelming energy of production nights.

Most of The Observer’s editorial board today would be surprised to hear that I am very anxious and reserved when it comes to new and uncomfortable environments. I barely speak unless I am spoken to and try my best to remain invisible and out of the way. Wednesday production nights were no different. Honestly, I really enjoyed just sitting and watching all the conversations unfold in front of me while I worked, secretly sharing their excitement when they were sharing their stories from the week. It was clear that they were all very close, and I was excited to one day share in that excitement.

Back then, we weren’t nearly as efficient with our editing process as we are now. Aura left The Observer after the fall 2019 semester, so it was just Chris and I. The “late night crew” would be the last ones to leave production nights, usually being made up of me, Chris, the other co-director of print Nathan Lesch, executive editor Matt Hooke, and our director of design Preston Willis. We would typically stay until 5 or 6 a.m., and when you’re trapped in a basement room pulling all-nighters with strangers once a week, things start to get weird. We would talk about strange bits of our lives, write little snippets of nonsensical stories together, introduce strange corners of the internet to each other and edit pictures of one another to such a degree that we cried from laughter. On Thursdays, I had 8 a.m. physics labs, so I would just stay up and go to physics early. I have no idea how I managed to do it every week; it was brutal, but somehow, it was worth it.

In the middle of my first spring semester, COVID-19 came around and shut down everything. I don’t remember much of that, but I do remember that we eventually started our newsletter and released our issues online-only. We started doing production nights on Zoom, but I never went. It felt too weird, and I just did my editing by myself in my room.

Before I knew it, we were back in-person, and I had been a copy editor for two years. Chris Markham had become director of print in my sophomore year and graduated. I followed along and figured it was time to become a director myself. It was definitely a learning experience, but I really found myself getting the hang of it. I loved being able to oversee all the different parts of the print process and helping all the people that needed it. I loved getting to know everyone and helping them get adjusted to production nights just like I had. Nathan was the executive editor, but abruptly had to leave in the middle of the spring semester, and Shreyas Banerjee took his place. 

At that time, I was very familiar with Shreyas. I was introduced to him as a writer when I started out as a copy editor, where he primarily wrote for the Arts and Entertainment section. He wrote so much and had such a specific style that it was impossible to ignore him. He often came up as a topic of conversation during production nights, whether it was talking about some strange phrasing he had included in his pieces or how he had come upon such strange and specific pieces of information. I would be lying if I didn’t say some of his pieces were borderline torture to edit. That year, he had become the A&E section editor, and I had gotten to know him better, but working with him as the new executive editor was an entirely different experience. It’s so evident that he works so hard and cares so much about the final product, and honestly, we made a great team.

Working with Shreyas has meant the world to me. I have loved being his co-captain in this wonderful organization and I haven’t processed that it’s all coming to an end in just a few weeks. As I’m writing this, I’m just now realizing that I’ve spent almost every Wednesday night of my college career in the University Media Board office. What am I going to do with all that extra time?

I’m so proud of everyone I’ve worked with in this process—all of the editors and designers that have come and gone in my time here—and I’ve been so impressed with their growth over the years. I’ve been here for an entire editorial board transition, and everyone’s dedication to their work has never failed to amaze me. The sense of community and belonging that I longed for in the beginning has remained, and I couldn’t be happier. I still hear those lively conversations every night and it still fills me with so much joy. I’m going to miss it when I’m gone.