Daily Texan just a job, but one you can learn from

Ryan Young

Editor’s note: A 30 column is a chance for departing permanent staff to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in The Daily Texan’s basement office. The term comes from the old typesetting mark (-30-) to denote the end of a line.

It’s been fun, but time’s up. Before this senior columnist rides off into the sunset, I’d like to reflect on the mission of The Daily Texan for the benefit of our future writers — and no, our job is not to write sensational columns about gentrification and Tex-Mex. It is simply to teach people to write.

True to the University’s motto, many of us in the Texan Opinion department stroll into the office with a determination to save the world, whether that means improving mental healthcare, cleaning up the environment, advocating for LGBTQ rights or fighting for a myriad of other personal causes.

When I joined the Texan last spring, my personal mission was to dream of an Austin that was more equitable and civil — a city with some architecture more attractive than endless row homes and strip malls, a city with basic municipal services like sidewalks and, of course, a city with quality public transportation, where getting around doesn’t have to mean staring at brake lights on I-35.

I was excited to write about those big ideas, and write about them I did. Some of my columns were more successful than others. For every hard-hitting critique of the University’s bombastic Be Safe rhetoric, there was a confused and muddled rant about UT shuttles and campus maps.

By last fall, having parroted the same ideas over and over again, I was burned out. I felt I had become a mediocre pundit and that I wasn’t improving my writing abilities. Writing felt like a time sink, and I considered making that semester my last.

But for reasons I still can’t fully explain, I decided to stay on. Maybe it was the efforts of the editors to improve our writing skills by preparing presentations and inviting speakers. Maybe it was the exciting new transit projects under development at Capital Metro. Maybe it was Laura, who texted me over winter break to ask me to start writing weekly again.

But this semester, I tried something different. I narrowed my focus to campus-centric stories that students would care about. More “Will Amazon pick Austin?” and less “Why you should give a crap about the city’s impossibly complicated land development code.” (Don’t worry. You shouldn’t). I realized that as columnists, our audience is you, the students and staff at UT. Sure, we aren’t saving the world, but we’re producing interesting and relatable commentary — and while that’s not exactly earth-shattering, it’ll do just fine.

I outlined my 30 column last semester. The plan was to gently, but firmly criticize the Texan for losing sight of its educational objectives.

But that’s not really true. You guys taught me to use my voice — to start projects and just get out there and talk to people. For example, I’ve used my new journalism and networking skills to start my own public transportation blog.

To the Texan’s newest and future writers, embrace your job and the new learning experiences that come with it. Just remember that writing for the Texan is not the end-all-be-all, but a stepping-stone to greater things. What exactly that entails is left up to you.

To this transportation columnist’s readers and editors — thank you for riding, all of you. This is our last stop.

Young is a computer science senior from Bakersfield, California. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @ryanayng.