Former Editor-in Chief
I’m a history nerd. Then again, to those of you who know me well, that comes as little surprise.
Many a deadline night, I amused myself by jumping into the archives and pulling out random Pioneers newspapers from yesteryear – the first edition after Hillwood Commons opened; anything with the classic Conestoga wagon masthead, a report on Hurricane Gloria that came out the day I was born (Oct. 9, 1985 for those of you keeping score at home), the infamous O.J. Simpson headline, “The Juice Is Loose,” and the list goes on. I also proved something Stephanie Koithan, who now works with Rita Langdon after a stellar run as our features editor, frequently said – “I love you Danny, but you have the attention span of a gnat.”
Here’s the point – when I was asked to contribute in some way to the Pioneer’s 55th edition, I felt flattered and a bit duty-bound. After all, the Pioneer changed my life, and I am forever grateful. Now, here’s the obligatory “Golden Girls” reference (with apologies to the late, great Estelle Getty).
Picture it – Brookville, the fall of 2003. A not-quite 18-year-old, slightly frightened (and much slimmer) history education major arrives on the campus of C.W. Post, eager to begin a new chapter in his life. He has his books, he has his class schedule, and he has his gym clothes for a lunchtime workout at the Pratt Center. The only thing he doesn’t have? Professors.
Yes, friends, much like you did this fall, I arrived to the joyous spectacle of a faculty strike. Professors on the picket line, big American flags at the front gate, the whole lot. Both of my courses for the day bit the dust accordingly, and with little homework to speak of, I wanted something to do with myself. I saw a flier announcing the Pioneer’s first meeting for 2003 and decided to head upstairs and see what was happening. Plus, the free pizza sounded ducky, too.
As it turns out, those professors did me a favor. They gave me a chance to discover something that I would ultimately fall in love with.
If you’re wondering, a college newspaper office is a really, really good place to be when there’s a strike on campus. News is happening, and it’s coming to life before your eyes. And I quickly made friends. One of the editors was an orientation leader I remembered from the summer, and I kind of hung out with her for the first few months at the newspaper, doing odd jobs, picking up a story here and there and learning the basics. I laid out the classified ads for a whole semester on a computer that was so awful and temperamental that we named it “666.” I hear the new computers are much nicer.
As time went on, I got more involved in the Pioneer. I picked up a column and wrote about gay and lesbian issues from the eyes of a college student (note to future authors – if you do such a thing, and I hope someone does, come out to your parents first. It’s good for your blood pressure); started getting more involved with news reporting, became the advertising manager, got promoted to managing editor and was finally voted in as editor-in-chief, which I did for three wonderful years until I graduated in 2008.
All the while, a funny thing happened – I started falling in love with journalism. Initially, I swore I was going to be a history teacher, with this funny little writing thing as a hobby. Then, my plans were to be a history teacher who would do freelance writing on the side. About two years in, I took a journalism minor along with my history education major and started wondering – “Could I do this for a living?” Ultimately, I got the confidence I needed to switch majors, and taking that leap was one of the best things I ever did for myself.
I’ve been working for Long Islander Newspapers in Huntington since the summer of 2008, and I’m frequently reminded why journalism is my calling. Not only do I interact with fascinating, important people every day, I’m able to provide a public service by collecting and disseminating information, keeping politicians on their toes and giving a voice to people who are being abused or neglected by the system, their neighbors, whoever it is. And for me, a kid who got bullied a whole lot from third to ninth grade and spent more than a few moments wishing I wouldn’t wake up the next morning, that’s a wonderful privilege to now have.
I owe the Pioneer a whole lot – for the friends I made, the career track it set me on and the experiences that prepared me well for working in the “real world.” I don’t regret a bit of it – even the heinous Tuesday night production marathons – and I hope each of you have the same good fortune I enjoyed during my time here.