Editorial #834: A different kind of ending

By Imogen Usherwood, Editor-in-Chief

It feels a bit strange writing my farewell editorial at the end of Michaelmas Term – I’m being forced to start saying goodbye, and reflecting on my time at Durham, less than half way into my final year. But here we are, my two terms as Editor-in-Chief very nearly complete and, in accordance with tradition, I’m offering a few parting words (no wisdom guaranteed).

It’s a big time for endings right now. The end of my time at the newspaper, the end of term and, of course, the end of the bizarre year that has been 2020. While I don’t subscribe to the belief that the calendar year is to blame for the mess we find ourselves in, I’m holding out hope that 2021 will offer some kind of improvement. The things we used to take for granted, even in the good old days of Tier 2, are what make university life more than just a degree. Freshers, I hope you get to experience those things as soon as possible, even if that just means a messy night in Klute.

I’m holding out hope that 2021 will offer some kind of improvement

Usually, this editorial is where I’d say “despite the ups and downs, I wouldn’t change a thing about my time at Palatinate” – however, in light of the way the world is, it goes without saying that, if I could relive my nine months as Editor in a coronavirus-free world, I absolutely would.

A lot of Palatinate relies on routine and tradition, things I watched past Editors-in-Chief do that just haven’t happened in 2020. I never got to sit at the head of the table in an SU meeting room, over forty people squashed in, and go through their content ideas; I never did the endless hours in the office during print week, hunched over one of the desktops lovingly named and George Alagiah (yes, really); I never got to call “Swan?” at the end of a meeting, as we bundled ourselves down Elvet to get to the cash machine.

Instead, I’ve done my entire shift as Editor-in-Chief – save one precious week in March when I started – online. Everything you’ve seen Palatinate do in the last nine months, every article, newspaper or social media post, is the product of countless Zoom calls, emails and Facebook messages. It breaks my heart to think that I’ve never actually met half of the current editorial board in person.

Everything you’ve seen Palatinate do in the last nine months is the product of countless Zoom calls, emails and Facebook messages

Yet, here I am – and while it hasn’t been the Editor-in-Chief experience I wanted or expected, I’m proud of it none the less. Palatinate hasn’t just survived 2020, we’ve done some really important work along the way. Since March, we’ve published breaking news stories that were picked up by national papers, brought attention to and commented on abusive behaviour among the Durham community, and given scores of students the chance to see their work published for the first time.

Palatinate has been the single most important, consistent and time-consuming thing I’ve done at Durham – with an important caveat that, yes, my degree is all of those things too, I promise. I joined the editorial board as Deputy Features Editor in October 2018, a wide-eyed fresher who just really liked writing but was too scared to say much in meetings or join the older students at the pub afterwards. Fast forward to March 2020, and I was standing up to give a very anxious hust for Editor-in-Chief. Now, in December, I’m preparing to pass the baton to someone else.

Thank you to this term’s editorial board – it’s been a real pleasure working with every single one of you, and I will miss all the group chats dearly – but especially to my fellow Editor-in-Chief Tash, and Deputies Toby and Tim. Even during the late-night Zoom calls (and there were many) when we spent half an hour moving columns by millimetres, or debating the colour scheme for the front page, or hastily fixing the website we had accidentally crashed during the redesign process, I’ve been surrounded by brilliant people who managed to make it fun.

I’ve been surrounded by brilliant people who managed to make it fun

Thanks also to Tom, who was Editor-in-Chief alongside me in Easter and taught me pretty much everything I know, as well as Jack, Oscar, Shauna, Faye, Hugo, Millie, and all the other editors I’ve been able to work with in the last two and-a-bit years.

This term has been a difficult one for absolutely everybody. But now, at the end of week nine, we’ve nearly finished it. Whether you’re already safe at home, getting ready to leave or planning to stay in Durham – well done. We’ve survived online classes, Zoom fatigue, isolation, deadlines, mass testing, and the constant uncertainty of being a student in the time of Covid-19. If we can get through this, we can get through next term too, and all the terms after that, whatever 2021 may throw at us. And, as I shall trust to my successor and the rest of the team, Palatinate will be there to document it, every step of the way.

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