When I joined the Daily Bruin during the winter quarter of my second year, I was simply an observant bystander.
I was always interested in journalism, but wasn’t confident in my abilities because I lacked experience. As a Radio intern, I would read the stories and visit the office regularly, but did not contribute anything to the paper for two quarters. I never thought much about my future at The Bruin and was happy just floating by. But I was pushed out of my comfort zone when Mackenzie Possee, the incoming editor-in-chief at that time, decided to let go of the Radio section.
Suddenly, my time at The Bruin was being cut short with Radio’s untimely end. I thought any prospect of pursuing a career in journalism was ending with it. But Mackenzie, along with then-digital managing editor Emily McCormick, met with the radio interns and encouraged us to cross-train with other sections of the paper.
What I thought was an abrupt end to a short-lived career suddenly became the beginning of the most meaningful years of my time at UCLA. On a whim, I decided to cross-train in news because I wanted to give old-fashioned journalism a shot. I told myself to give it my all and just quit if things didn’t work out.
My first story was assigned one day before my midterm – I had to cover an event held by a Cambodian American student group. As I walked to the event sleep-deprived and stressed, I was almost sure it was going to be my first and final story. But when I arrived at the event, the stories of Cambodian immigrants who fled their home country because of the Khmer Rouge moved me. I typed up my first draft once I got home.
Eventually, I repeated that process at least 10 times and ended up writing a lot more than I had originally anticipated. The thrill of stepping into a world that is different than your own and getting to tell the story is impossible to replicate.
In my final year at The Bruin, I decided on a different approach – I took up the challenge of writing stories for Daily Bruin’s long-term sections, PRIME and Enterprise. This time, I chose the topics. I wrote stories about international students’ difficulties and students who overcame academical dismissal – two issues that meant a lot to me, as they affected people I cared about.
For PRIME and Enterprise, there was a familiar sequence: interviewing, writing, cutting, reediting, reinterviewing, repeating. Working on these stories, I learned to develop most of the skills I initially lacked. Asking the right questions, writing a strong lede – these are skills I developed through that tedious sequence. I came to realize I had developed these skills when I had to rewrite transitions for my PRIME story – it came so naturally that I know first-year me would be proud. I am certain every individual is able to develop through practice and persistence.
All those times I held myself back for my first two years, it was because I thought I didn’t have what it took. But throughout my time at The Bruin, I realized it is possible to either learn or develop what you lack. You need to be eager – both to make mistakes and learn from them, and you need to be brave.
My friends outside the paper always ask me why I spend so much time in the office. There may be no quantifiable or immediately tangible return for the hours I have put in. Just like most staffers, I am unpaid and overworked.
But my time at the Daily Bruin is replete with lessons and memories I wouldn’t have been able to earn elsewhere. That, money can’t buy.
Harjanto was a Radio intern 2017, News contributor 2017-2018, News senior staff 2018-2019 and PRIME and The Stack contributor 2018-2019.