A Swan Song to The Spectrum, from Ben

I could fill a book with my time at The Spectrum — literally.

In my four years with this little publication that could, I have, to my best guess, 249 bylines to my credit. This’ll be No. 250. I’d argue my loquaciousness probably puts my average word count per story at 450. (This swan song will raise that average.) I consulted some STEM majors, and they said that equates to more than 100,000 words in print these last four years from me alone. Ubiquitous Google says that that amount of words could fill a 400-page book, and that’s without all the photos I’ve snapped.

Benjamin Norman, the part-time paid, full-time working student-journalist of North Dakota State, has pumped out more published material since 2013 than John Green, professional author, by approximately 100,000 words.

Today, I add to that total one more time. Suck it, John.

Per usual, I shouldn’t be doing this. My to-do list is unchecked: I have a talent show to prep for tonight, a golf scramble to promote this weekend and a presentation, unit plan and research paper to start (and finish) by next week. Also, I have a 101.3-degree fever, and doctors haven’t ruled out malaria. Yet here we are, writing for a newspaper I know the majority of campus doesn’t read, and when it does read, it usually comes after us with pitchforks and anonymous comments and a lack of articulate letters to the editor.

This work seems foolish and bitter when you think of it that way. So I don’t, usually.

While I know I’m undoubtedly a fool, I am not bitter. I’m grateful for The Spectrum. So grateful.

I walked into The Spectrum office as a freshman with no background in publications, save the semester of redundant pre-COMM classes I was completing for my then-major of journalism. My first story was on the first-ever Panera Bread to call North Dakota home. I interviewed Panera bigwigs, bagel-wielding competitors and carb-craving students for a story that took days to assemble. I misquoted my first interviewee and earned $10. I was hooked.

Later that year, I found the front page, pissed off my first student senator and interviewed President Bresciani for the first time via phone call — all in one story. I held my tape recorder to the mouth-end of my Tracfone, rendering Bresciani’s quotes inaudible.

Thank God for paraphrasing.

And then I wrote my first column, akin to this column I’m writing. I recorded my thoughts after doing something stupid, and, much like this article, that column was written under the clouds of physical fever and emotional fervor.

In case you don’t remember that article from 2014, it went something like this: I slogged through snowbanks while listening to my iPod Nano and got cold and then asked rhetorical questions.

Young Ben asks, “Would you let your soul lead you into an adventure, even a cold and illogical one? When life gets you bogged down, do you turn around? Do you flee only to sink lower into your despair? Do you use Tracfone minutes to wave the white flag? Or do you walk on and move along?”

Not only did I move along, I began to jog. I partied with Harvardians. I switched my major and became Co-News Editor. Dreams and possibilities brimmed as sophomore year dawned.

Then reality woke me up. A classmate went missing and was found murdered in the fall. Our initial coverage of Tom Bearson broke our website, bringing in too much traffic. My personal coverage — of the press conferences, interviewing grieving friends and reporting from the vigil — made me ache; never before had I cried for someone I’d never met.

I wasn’t sold on my new major and was unceremoniously bumped up to Head News, managing a staff of three and having to fill three pages (3,000 words) twice a week.

I was in well over my head. It’s without any hyperbole when I say that that job nearly killed me. Through supportive friends and professors and the grace of God, though, I made it. We made it.

Junior year took me off the news beat and back into sanity. As Head Copy Editor, I polished hundreds of stories and took out more than a million Oxford commas. I had fun prescribing arbitrary rules for the sake of clarity and consistency, thinking of it as my last joyride with the staff; I was content to leave the paper because, I thought, the only way I’d truly enjoy my senior year was sans Spectrum.

Thank God I didn’t.

I made two promises as this year’s editor-in-chief: To keep the boat afloat, and to not apologize for our existence. Neither goal was easy, and neither would’ve been achieved if I hadn’t had the staff working alongside me.

Notwithstanding their regional and international awards, my team of ragtag editors and writers just rock. They put up with me daily, stood behind me when the goings got tough and even allowed for the impromptu soliloquy from atop a chair, and for that and so much more, I am forever grateful.

I am forever grateful for the people I’ve met and the friendships I’ve made; I’m forever grateful for the privilege of being The Spectrum’s captain for its 120th year of existence and I am forever grateful for these permanent bags under my eyes. They’ll remind me of the countless hours I gave to this little newspaper that did, and this little newspaper that will continue to do, long after I’m gone.

So thank you, NDSU, for letting me tell your stories, and some of mine, too.

“Life may be easier on plowed roads, but it isn’t as exciting,” I wrote in that first column. “Keep moving forward, through snowbanks, spring semester and life.

“You might find out that it was worth the struggle.”

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