Editor’s note: The importance of telling stories

Eddie Kerekes, Executive Editor

During an interview for an engineering internship, I was asked if writing was my true passion. I’d been talking about my time at The Observer as a writer and an editor, trying to differentiate myself from other potential candidates. I thought my best course of action would be to assure the interviewers that I really did like engineering as much as I liked writing.

So, I, like all other interviewees, embellished the truth. I said that my passions were equal, that I even liked engineering more. That’s why I majored in it, right?

Last week, the University Media Board celebrated its groups’ achievements with the fourth annual Correspondents’ Dinner, an event with food, tears and a keynote speech. The speaker for the evening, former managing editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer Thom Fladung, spoke about the importance of storytelling in media. It is both the media’s job and its responsibility to tell the stories of all people, from the politicians to the students.

Just three years earlier, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jim Sheeler spoke about a similar topic at the same event. Storytelling, why it was important and how to do it right.

At the time of Sheeler’s speech, I was just a first-year staff reporter. I had covered the volleyball beat, wrote reviews of a TV show (RIP “Agent Carter”) and featured students and clubs in the sports section. I had three more years of editing and reporting ahead of me, but I never considered doing this full time.

I spent more time working on The Observer over the last two years than probably anything else. More than school, work, friendships or other clubs. And I honestly never stopped to ask myself why. Why have I stayed for 10 hours every Wednesday night? Why have I spent so much time on a collegiate newspaper, when it’s not even going to be a future career?

I think back to Sheeler’s speech and Fladung’s speech. I want to tell the stories of the campus.

Each year, over 5,000 undergraduate students, over 6,500 graduate students and about 6,800 faculty and staff gather on this campus. Every single person has a story. It’s our responsibility as the only newspaper covering this area of Cleveland to tell those stories.

Who else will write about the men’s soccer team going far in the national tournament? Who else will feature a staff member who’s been here for more than 30 years? Who else will describe the student impact of new food distribution requirements or the two-day closure of the entire university or shootings on campus?

No one.

That’s why I put so much time and effort into this paper. To tell the stories of this campus that no one else would.

So, I would like to thank everyone involved with the production of the newspaper this past year for helping me do that. I would list them all, but the staff box beneath this note has their names already. Good luck to the staff next year, especially to Matt Hooke, the new executive editor. Matt is talented, driven and experienced and will lead The Observer to heights I couldn’t dream of reaching, telling even more stories on campus.

Unlike most departing executive editors, I still have another year left on campus, thanks to co-op. I may occasionally still pop up in these pages or online to tell even more stories. I just won’t be editing anyone’s work or telling people what to cover.

I ended up not getting that internship, the one with the question about my true passion, probably because the interviewers could see straight through me. I now know what I’ll respond with the next time I’m asked that question.

Writing isn’t my passion; telling stories is.