Reif: My years with the paper people

Jordan Reif, Staff Writer

Last year, while procrastinating homework, I was scrolling through Twitter and found someone who explained our college experience as: freshman year, COVID, senior year. While it may seem trivial, that five-word explanation does largely sum up the Class of 2022—with the exception that COVID-19 has continued. In many ways, I am pleased that we were able to have relatively normal first and last years. We had time to socialize and find friends before being sent home in the second semester of our second year. And now, two years later, we again have had the opportunity to wait in line for free stuff at Thwing, rush to class after oversleeping, sit with warm beverages at the Coffeehouse on a snowy day, visit our favorite Cleveland spots and, if we’re lucky, make new friends. 

Most of my experiences with The Observer were during those fateful two years in the middle of my time at Case Western Reserve University. After writing for the News and Opinion sections during my first year, I rather hastily became the Opinion Editor in fall 2019—a role I held until the end of spring 2021. It’s safe to say that strengthening my writing and editing were perhaps the least impactful parts of the position. 

The Observer, in many ways, helped me through the challenges, isolation and anxiety of the first two years of the pandemic. I stumbled into the editor role and at my first production night I realized just how little I knew about the rest of the staff and the process of newspaper editing. Over the next few months, however, people welcomed me to the team, offered me Observer-branded “sticker holders” (read: shot glasses) and I began to grow into the leadership position. I adjusted the Opinion section to increase the number of writers and diverse opinions, empower writers to share concerns about the section and editing and urge people to use their voice to facilitate conversation and change on campus. 

Part of the responsibility of the Opinion Editor is writing the weekly editorial, featuring a discussion about an issue that affects the CWRU or Cleveland community and, when possible, including recommendations for improvement. Researching and writing these articles was easily my favorite task. I loved interviewing campus and community members and brainstorming ways to make CWRU and Cleveland more just. As my dear friend and Executive Editor, Shreyas Banerjee, frequently writes in his editor’s note, it is the responsibility of a student newspaper to inform the community and use our power as CWRU students to fight for necessary changes. 

This brings me to the most impactful parts of my time at The Observer: the people. I admit it is a cliché, but for good reason. Between March 2020 and May 2021, virtual production nights were a consistency I could rely on and look forward to each week. Sure, sometimes it involved me rushing to write the editorial last minute or negotiating edits with columnists, but it also meant hanging out with friends and procrastinating work until early on Thursday morning so we could spend more time together. The Editorial Board surprised me with a (mostly in tune) song on Zoom when my 21st birthday landed on a production night and one of the more beautiful members of the team showed up at my apartment with a cake. Other editors and writers, who I’m honored to call my friends, advised me how to best handle challenging submissions and life decisions. Our organization’s advisor crushed a few of us in bowling by nearly 100 points while continuing to genuinely cheer us on. And I made some of my closest friends with whom I regularly share laughs, cries, delicious meals and the fruits of “Cocktails with Chris” videos. 

One night, upon telling my roommate I was going to hang out with “paper people”—my affectionate term for fellow editors and writers at The Observer—she replied that I really ought to find some real friends who aren’t made out of paper. I giggled at the joke, feeling so blessed to have these sincere and delightful people in my life. While the uncertainty of post-graduation plans looms over me, I know that I have people and the skills of fighting for justice through writing on my side.

I must note that if there is one thing I could change, I would quietly sabotage an entire issue by abandoning our style guide and adding in every appropriate, beautiful Oxford comma. Alas, they’ll even be edited out of this article. My commitment to niche grammar rules aside, I am so honored to have been part of The Observer staff for the last four years and all the amazing, unforgettable experiences in the University Media Board office and coffee shops, at the Corner Alley and on Zoom and FaceTime with people around the country. Here’s to many more years of The Observer—reading it as an alumnus, reminiscing over good times and making new memories with the beautiful people who The Observer found for me. Hopefully, however, I will be able to read The Observer online in peace without the woman in the pesky TIAA advertisement interrupting me after every paragraph.