During week zero of my first year, my roommate, other first years living in Aberdeen Inverness and I took a tour around campus. As we made a stop by UNLH, the older students leading the tour emphasized the importance of getting involved on campus and mentioned different organizations we could join. As the group walked toward the HUB, my roommate asked if I knew any clubs I wanted to get involved in. I looked to my right at two glass doors that read “Highlander Newspaper” and nonchalantly said that I would probably look into joining the school paper.
Now, four years later and on the precipice of graduation, I can confidently say that was the best decision I made in college.
The first person I met when I walked through the glass doors was the editor-in-chief at the time, Myles Andrews-Duve. After I told him I wanted to write for the sports section, he gave me the business card of my first editor, Jon Hammond.
Jon was the lead sports editor my first and second year and taught me so much of what I know about writing, interviews, AP rules and general day-to-day operations at a newspaper. He was a comforting presence who helped me with my first interview at a chaotic Highlander Hoopsfest event that took place at the Belltower back in 2016. Jon was effortlessly great at his job and what I admire most about him is his easygoing nature and how he made everyone he talked to walk away from their interaction with a smile.
Near the end of my first year, I was hired as the assistant sports editor and became more involved with the production of the paper. As an editor you have various responsibilities, but perhaps the most important is attending weekly production on Sundays. At production, the editor-in-chief sits down with section editors to go over the content for that week and make any final tweaks. After a section’s sit down is finished, the editors are free to hang out around the office until it’s time to look over their pages.
At some point, usually around noon or so, the editors start grumbling about whose turn it is to buy lunch for the staff. This is often followed by a short debate over what to get before we settle on the usual: Little Caesars pizza. The funniest part about the food discussion is that although no one was particularly fond of the pizza, quite the opposite actually, we consistently settled for it just because it was cheap for the amount of pizzas we got.
So the majority of my Sundays over the past three years have been spent in HUB 101, eating Little Caesar’s pizza with very talented, passionate, funny, caring and overall great individuals. I’m thankful for the people I’ve gotten to know over the countless hours I’ve spent in our newsroom, waiting for the pages to be ready, eating mediocre pizza.
As more and more Sundays passed and the more and more Little Caesars we ate, I started to develop more relationships within the newsroom. Myles and I eventually developed a mentor-mentee relationship that has extended beyond our time working together. I respected his journalism acumen and how he thought outside of the box to develop different angles. He pushed me to work harder and go the extra mile on stories, which led to the publication of my first investigative piece — an article that landed me an opportunity to freelance with The Press Enterprise.
Myles also introduced me to Louis Van den Bergh and Elliot Fong, Director and Associate Director of KUCR, the university radio station. I will always be thankful to both Louis and Elliot for giving me the opportunity to work with KUCR, broadcast basketball games and host a sports talk show and The Highlander’s radio show, Newsroom.
In my third year, I took on the role of lead sports editor. To be honest, I wasn’t feeling all that motivated to start the year, but that changed once I got to know my assistant sports editor, Jaryd Bongcaras. Jaryd was a breath of fresh air in a job that had begun to feel a bit stale. Myles and Jon had both graduated the previous year, so I no longer had that mentor-like figure to push me to improve. But Jaryd’s unconventional approach reinvigorated me enough to try different things in the sports section and it ended up being a great year.
In my final year with The Highlander, I was able to follow in Myles’ footsteps and become the editor-in-chief. I had long wanted the position and when I got it, Myles was the first person I texted, more than a year after his graduation.
If I’m being honest, my final year working for The Highlander didn’t go exactly as planned. It started with a lawsuit against the paper and ended with a pandemic that forced us to suddenly shift from print to online publication, but I can’t overstate how proud I am of how our staff adjusted and rolled with the punches all year. Even through the more difficult times, we still managed to carve out some great moments such as the CCMA awards we won (shoutout to Kerry and Amanda!) and the trips we went on that brought the staff closer together.
Despite the ups and downs of the past year, I’m grateful for it all. I’m grateful to have been able to work alongside such passionate individuals and for the pizza that brought us all closer together. It’s been an honor serving as editor-in-chief of this organization, but now I’m beyond excited to see where the next generation takes it.
Jonathan Fernandez was The Highlander’s editor in chief from 2019-2020. He was previously the sports editor from 2018-2019, assistant sports editor from 2017-2018 and a contributing writer from 2016-2017.