What can I even say? How can I begin to describe the most wonderful, intense, transformative experience of my life so far? I guess I can start by saying thank you.
Thank you to the people who welcomed me with open arms from the moment I walked into this newsroom. You took a painfully awkward freshman with no reporting experience and turned him into a journalist.
Thank you to our adviser, ad salesman and Batt Dad, Doug Pils. I remain astounded by your tireless dedication to the paper and its staff, and I am so grateful to have had you as a mentor these last few years.
Another huge thank you belongs to Sam Mahler, an amazing managing editor who I’m sure will make an even better editor-in-chief. And while I’m at it, thank you to everyone on staff for making my final semester a great one.
Now, before I’m ceremonially dragged out of the newsroom and stripped of my title, I hope you’ll indulge a retiring editor as he tries to make sense of his journey here.
Partway through my very first semester at The Batt, one of my news editors issued something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, saying she felt certain that I would be editor-in-chief one day. If this wasn’t enough, that year’s editor-in-chief later offered this somewhat foreboding prediction: “Eventually, you’ll realize that you don’t trust anyone but yourself to run this place.”
None of this is to say that I believe my rise to this position was written in the stars or otherwise natural and inevitable. If anything, I feel this is one of the least probable things that could have happened to me. But the incredible encouragement I received from those previous editors made me want to prove them right. And so I stayed down in this basement until my picture was taped inside the clock in the middle of our newsroom — a tradition we’ve carried on to remind us that the EIC is “always on the clock.”
The road to ultimate recognition under the ticking hands of that clock was certainly a long and interesting one, with plenty of bumps and stalls along the way. I’ve covered Texas A&M through all the highs and lows of these last seven semesters; in times of celebration and times of intense mourning. Through it all, I’ve seen The Battalion continue to do what it does best: inform and engage the student body in the way that only a student newspaper can.
This, I believe, is where I must get on my soapbox for a moment. As someone who has seen the incredible value that The Batt can offer the A&M community, it hurts to see how far we have fallen in some respects. From freshman to senior year, I’ve seen The Batt transition from printing daily to printing weekly. I’ve seen us move from paying all our staff members to relying mostly on dedicated volunteers. While we are grateful for those who donate their time and effort to keep this paper alive, I am concerned that we are missing out on the important perspectives of those who can’t afford to work for free.
I am inspired to see the many amazing people who share these concerns and have resolved to help turn things around through organizations like the Friends of The Battalion and Former Journalism Students Association. It has helped tremendously to know we are not alone in this fight.
Speaking of not being alone, there are two people I still need to thank. Emily and James Henkhaus are the best parents anyone could ask for, and I couldn’t have made the most of my time in college without their support. I love you, Mom and Dad, and I hope someday I can fully express my gratitude for all you’ve done.
Now the hands on the clock are moving much faster than I would like, and it’s finally setting in that my time at The Battalion is really coming to an end. I can only hope I’ve done as much for this place as it’s done for me, but I can’t say with confidence that that’s the case. All I can do is leave you with the same words the last three graduating editors picked to end their own time here. Despite my best efforts, I guess I’ve become kind of a sucker for tradition. So in that Spirit that can ne’er be told, I’ll say it with all the strength and meaning I can muster: Thanks, and gig ‘em.
Luke Henkhaus is an economics senior, journalism minor, and editor-in-chief for The Battalion.