As I’m writing this in early August, my tenure as Top o’ the World’s editor is quickly coming to a close. Arguably, this should have happened a month or more ago — perhaps back in May when I was supposed to graduate with my master’s and move on with my life.
Instead, and like any good obsessive would — I chose to kick the can down the road and stay on for a few more months, crank out a few last stories, and hopefully put a thing or two in order for the next year’s folks. Whether this was a prudent or successful venture, I remain unsure.
When I first took the role of Top’s editor in a Coffee Lab meeting (Going into it, I thought it was an interview. Turns out, it was a “you’re the only guy who wants this gig” kinda deal) with communications professor and Top’s advisor Toni Todd, I had only the slightest inkling of what I was signing up for, or how the role would soon expand to become deeply meaningful to me.
I quickly came to know that Top provided a perfect venue for me to explore areas of divergent interest — the training and psyches of football players, the science behind salamanders and wildfires, the methods and motives of student artists, the various states of Top in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and early aughts (derived via discussions with former editors — conversations that proved to be one of my favorite parts of being editor), and so much more.
And then, when my other master’s project fell through in the late fall, roughly six months before graduation, Top was right there — ready to be elevated from a side gig to the main shebang.
As my work with Top amped up as I strained to prove to myself and perhaps others that this was worthy of a graduate project, I came increasingly to know that writing is hard, and writing and editing nearly every day for months on end is a tough endeavor — one that can wear on you.
As spring came and then rolled along, I began to feel increasingly self conscious about my writing — was it growing static, becoming repetitive? Were my pieces way too long? (Almost undoubtedly yes).
I also learned that it’s rather tough to edit yourself. Thankfully — save for a few summer pieces or articles that needed to be pushed out the door — I largely didn’t have to.
I was aided tremendously along the way by Caspen Black, Matthew Eshed, Ilsa Graceland, Claire Burianek, Tess Peterson, and Rebecca Briesmoore, among others, who put in the hours squinting at screens and making my shlock readable.
Along the way, I also learned that there are a near-endless number of stories worthy of being told, and people deserving of an interview. I conducted, in my estimation, more than 150 interviews over the past year, yet there are so many more people I wish I could have spoken with. Certainly, I pass down ample opportunities to my successors.
Now, let me take a moment to be frank — I am not the world’s greatest copy editor. Or creative visionary, or task manager, or writer. My knowledge and usage of AP Style is lacking, to say the least, although I did try — at times.
Despite all these caveats, I’m proud of much of the writing myself and the Top team did on the website — features, event recaps, creative writing — the works, and of our photographers — Kayla Kimball, Alex Pedersen, and Abigail Krueger — who took some fantastic photos.
When I took the reins at Top, I was one of two holdovers from the previous year, and worked to recruit a team of 10 or so students across campus to partake in what many may think is an increasingly silly endeavor, given that we are entrenched firmly in the era of rampant social media usage and diminishing readership across the board, and as many outlets pivot to audio and video.
Hell, we’re hoping to conduct a video or audio pivot of our own sometime in the nearish future.
But I believe in the power of stories, of photography, and of honest conversations, and I hope that people have enjoyed and learned from what we’ve produced in the preceding year — on social media, in one of our two physical prints, or on our website, topotheworld.org, where you’re almost certainly reading.
To all those who have read anything, left us a like or comment, laughed at our April Fool’s edition, or shared any of our stuff with your friends: thank you.
I’m happy to report that moving forward, the paper is in the very capable hands of half a dozen or so returning staff. I have no doubt they will recruit some more enterprising students this fall.
Top celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2021, and like any collegiate club or organization that has ever existed, it’s had its fair share of ups and downs, as well as periods of near dormancy.
But it’s my sincere hope that the future of Top will be filled with people of greater vision than I.
Students who can guide it through the swells, and hopefully have a little fun along the way.