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 that does not represent the Daily’s standard journalistic practices.
When Delaney Clarke joined the Features section of the Daily “casually” as a staff writer during her sophomore spring, she had no intention of her time at the paper being anything more than a low-commitment hobby.
“For some reason, I just kept attending the meetings, and I was oftentimes one of few people there,” Clarke said. “Then I just kept taking assignments after assignment after assignment after assignment because I just started to really enjoy it even though it just started as a hobby.”
Clarke originally joined the Daily to pursue her interest in writing. As an engineering psychology major, she found few opportunities to write, and the Daily seemed like the perfect outlet to do that more frequently.
“I joined the Features section just to write,” Clarke said. “In my major, there wasn’t a lot of writing. It’s more research or engineering classes, computer science, so I always wanted to write more. In high school, I always wanted there to be a school paper, but we never had one.”
Clarke’s fear of conducting individual interviews had previously kept her from joining the Daily.
“I was really scared of talking to people one on one,” Clarke said. “That was what always held me back from joining.”
Overcoming this fear was a challenge Clarke faced while writing her first article.
“My first article was very trial and error,” Clarke said. “I don’t know if it went over very well. It was kind of all over the place, and I didn’t know what questions to ask people. Every call, I just kind of drifted off and ended the interview.”
When asked to write another article, Clarke still felt nervous but was committed to doing an excellent job on it.
“It was an article on Meatless Mondays at Carm, and … I started diving into it,” Clarke said. “I took it very seriously, … and I ended up doing all these interviews, and I was really nervous about the article.”
After writing the article, Clarke received positive feedback from one of her interviewees, which helped bolster her confidence as a writer.
“I remember it came out, and one of the sources emailed me, and they were like, ‘You did a really good job.’ I remember thinking, ‘Oh, okay, I’m decent at this,’” Clarke said. “I guess from there, I was kind of like, ‘Okay, I can do this.’ And with each article, I started to like it more and more, and I felt like I became better and better at holding a conversation and thinking of questions to ask people.”
Clarke became an assistant features editor during her junior fall and was surprised when she was selected to be the section’s executive editor during her junior spring.
“[When asked to be the executive features editor], I was kind of taken aback, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know,’” Clarke said. “I didn’t think this was going to be a leadership thing. But, then I thought about it, and I was like, I really enjoyed the Daily so far. I think it might be fun to try leading a group of people and see where it goes.”
Clarke described the executive features editor role as a work-intensive and, at times, isolating position. Despite these challenges, she found the position to be a wonderful opportunity to get to know writers better, developing a sense of community within her section.
“Going from assistant editor to features exec, I had no idea the workload of being an exec and how it is kind of all-consuming,” Clarke said. “There’s so much preparation over winter break, like turning over the reins and making sure I knew who was in my section, who’s writing, who’s not, and then just gathering content. … It was kind of difficult to corral people and get them to write.”
The workload was particularly taxing given Clarke’s course schedule at the time.
“Every day, the articles would come in and be edited, and then from 4–6 [p.m.], I would just be [editing] them and then sending them off,” Clarke said. “I was not sure how much time that would take because I was also taking five of these really big classes for my major at the same time. … But … it’s a mindset. You just get used to it.”
For Clarke, one of the best parts of being executive features editor was getting to know writers on a deeper level.
“Over the winter, I was kind of starting to freak out because I was like, ‘Oh, my section is really small,’ because a lot of juniors went abroad and I had a lot of young writers and new writers,” Clarke said. “But then what was nice is, even though we were a smaller section that semester, a lot of people would show up to the meetings weekly, which I really enjoyed, and I loved the process of getting people to talk about their articles and build off of one another.”
After her term as the executive editor for the Features section, Clarke moved on to serve on the Daily’s managing board during the fall semester of her senior year. During the summer before she started on the managing board, Clarke was anxiously hypothesizing what serving on the managing board might be like.
“For [the] managing board, it was kind of like the reverse, where I was excited to be on the managing board, but then over that summer, I started to get nervous because I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s my senior fall. Why did I sign up to do this again? What if we don’t like each other?’” Clarke said. “I was getting nervous because I was going to spend four nights in the office every week.”
To Clarke’s surprise, she had no reason to be worried about the dynamics of working on the managing board and became close friends with all of her fellow ‘m-boarders.’
“I was worried we wouldn’t click, but then when I went into the fall, it was honestly one of the most fun and rewarding semesters ever,” Clarke said. “I really loved working with the other m-boarders and we ended up all becoming like best friends. … There are people from different class years and different majors, people I probably wouldn’t have known [without being on the managing board]. ... I felt like I learned so much from them, not just about journalism, just about life.”
Currently, Clarke continues to build community within the Daily through her role as co-social chair and co-instructor of an ExCollege course for current Daily section executives and managing board members.
Reflecting on her time with the Daily, Clarke noted that knowing when to lean on others for support was a key skill she learned through her leadership positions.
“Understanding when I need a break is a hard thing,” Clarke said. “I think the leadership positions are very taxing but also very rewarding, and I think you really have to have a good mindset of understanding when you do need someone else’s help [editing] or when you just need support from someone else.”
Clarke hopes that others can find value in the variety of experiences the Daily provides, regardless of their future career interests.
“I think a lot of people are surprised when they hear what I’m majoring in and how much commitment I’ve given to a paper,” Clarke said. “It is a little unusual. I don’t think I’m going into journalism, and I think I joined the paper knowing I wouldn’t go into journalism. … A lot of the skills I’ve gained as an exec and a managing editor are things that can be applicable to lots of areas of life, even just how to work in an office with a multitude of different personalities and working styles, how to lead a group of people, how to meet tight deadlines and also how to put a lot of work into something that I was really passionate about.”