Editor’s note: The Daily’s editorial department acknowledges that this article is premised on a conflict of interest. This article is a special feature for Daily Week 2021 that does not represent the Daily’s standard journalistic practices.
Long before senior Justin Yu was ever a Jumbo or a contributor to The Tufts Daily, he was a Slytherin.
Brookline-born and Seattle-raised, Yu grew up in a household where playing outside and reading books were valued over video games and other technologically oriented activities. As a result, Yu developed a deep love for the "Harry Potter" (1997–2007) series.
His passion for Harry Potter evolved into writing fan fiction about the series. "I was creative, but not really a good writer … at one point I found my old fan fiction and it was pretty bad," Yu said.
As Yu got older, his interests expanded to chess and sports — particularly soccer. As a sports fan, having roots in both Boston and Seattle proved to be a bonus.
“I was able to root for my home team Seattle, but also since Seattle wasn’t that good at sports, I could refer to Boston,” he said.
When it came to choosing a university Yu was drawn to the freedom of a liberal arts education, which is why he chose Tufts. Self-proclaimed as shy, Yu initially struggled to get out of his comfort zone in a new environment.
“So when I came to Tufts, I was prepared for the academics, but not all the new people,” Yu said. “I pretty much just spent my entire freshman fall working on my grades — I wasn't part of any clubs.”
When the spring came, Yu decided it was time to try something new and joined The Tufts Daily.
“Freshman spring, I joined The Tufts Daily, and I had no idea what to do, so I went to the GIM, and I thought Features was a pretty cool thing to do,” Yu said.
Writing for the Features section appealed to him because of the longer deadlines and opportunities for thoughtful reflection. Yu was also interested in the detail-oriented nature of copy editing. Yu joined the Copy section and was soon going to the Daily's office in the basement of Curtis Hall for editing shifts. There, he worked with the Copy section and members of the Managing Board.
“I was a bit of an outsider and shy, so definitely intimated,” Yu said. “But one of my first [executive copy editors] was Nihaal Shah and I thought he was a really friendly Copy exec, so even though I was a really shy [first-year], he always made a point of talking to me.”
This experience proved to be pivotal for Yu, who found himself in the role of executive copy editor a year after joining the section. In the fall semester of his junior year, Yu went on to become one of the Daily's managing editors.
"Being on [the Managing Board] was my first real leadership experience, so at the beginning it was a huge learning curve for me to be an effective leader," Yu said. "You have to lead by example, so I think one thing is the professionalism of being in an office."
In his roles as executive copy editor and managing editor, Yu reflected on his experience as a first-year.
“One thing I really tried to focus on was being friendly to all the new people in the office, because one of the things I remembered from my first semester was pretty much no one talked to me because no one knew who I was,” Yu said. "So I really tried to make sure that [with] every new copy editor or new writer, I tried to ask them their name and anything about them, to make sure they felt [like] part of the team.”
Copy has become one of Yu's favorite sections of the Daily, and one that he feels captures his personality.
“Copy is essentially the last set of eyes before an article makes it onto the paper," Yu said. "I think Copy is what makes a paper look polished, you know when a paper has no obvious errors and is consistent in its style.”
Yu also explored written content in the Features section of the Daily. His first assignment was on students serving on the board of the Experimental College.
“I was pretty nervous to write for Features, because I had no experience in journalism,” Yu said. “I had to interview [ExCollege Director and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education] Howard Woolf, and I remember walking into his office and being really nervous, but then it eventually felt like we were having a conversation.”
Yu discovered some of his favorite aspects of journalism through a different Features assignment. Following the devastation of Hurricanes Maria and Harvey, he was assigned to cover how the Tufts administration provided support to students who were dealing with natural disasters that affected their homes. According to Yu, he quickly realized that the Tufts administration was limited in the ways that they could help.
“I remember texting my [executive features editor] because I thought there wasn’t much to write about, but then she told me that … I could feel free to pivot it to whatever I wanted to write about,” Yu said.
The finished product was a collection of stories from the perspectives of students coping with the tragedies at home. Yu considers the opportunity to talk to people he otherwise would never speak with one of the best parts of journalism.
“Being able to talk to various students on campus about their personal stories was really impactful to me," Yu said.
Throughout his time at the Daily, the annual matriculation and commencement issues were some highlights.
“I really liked not focusing on anything else in my life, and just working with the team," Yu said. "These are the two biggest issues of the year, and the content of these papers cover everything that goes on on Tufts campus.”
As a chemistry and economics major interested in law, involvement in journalism may not have been the most obvious choice, but it’s one that has helped develop Yu as a person, and yes, even a Slytherin.
“Even though journalism is not exactly connected to chemistry, economics or law, the skills you learn with the newspaper — the detail-oriented nature of the work [and] the interpersonal skills — are applicable anywhere and they’re skills I learned at The Tufts Daily.”