There’s no other way to talk about my college experience than to start with the lesser-known, often overlooked and utterly essential Pipe Dream section that defined it: the copy desk.
People outside Pipe Dream tilt their heads in confusion when I tell them I’m the ‘Copy Desk Chief.’ Someone already knowing what my position entails is a rare occasion. Basically, I am the final ‘fix-it’ read on every single article set for publication, making me responsible for things like clarity, grammatical errors, adhering to AP style and, oh yeah, factual accuracy.
That’s pretty damn important. Which was why halfway through my first and only semester as Assistant Copy Desk Chief, when it was suddenly dropped on me that due to some position shifts I’d be Copy Desk Chief the following semester, I panicked. I would be the final read on everything. If an error wasn’t caught, it would fall on my shoulders. It was up to me to uphold the paper’s reputation. Me, a little sophomore who’d spent the majority of her freshman year alone and aimlessly wandering from club to club, not finding her place until she joined Pipe Dream and a certain soft-spoken Copy Desk Chief saw something in her and promoted her to assistant.
It was that same former Copy Desk Chief, along with three of my other wise, senior Pipe Dream friends, who sat me down in the editorial room and talked out my fears. Unlike me, it turned out, the four of them had full faith in my abilities. I came out of that room not just feeling, but knowing I could more than handle being Copy Desk Chief — I could excel. I’ll never forget that conversation, or how strongly they believed in and supported me. These were the same juniors who took baby freshman me under their respective wings — why, I’ll never know, but I’m not complaining — and the same seniors now who continued to recognize my abilities, even when I couldn’t.
Three semesters in this position later, I can safely say I was able to handle it. I now know everything there is to know about this section, not only how to run it but how I personally run it: the lack of sports knowledge each of us has, the inadvertent intimidation I cause new contributors until they come to understand my odd sense of humor, the glee on a contributor’s face when they read an article with a curse word and I say it’s allowed to be there, the apprehension that comes before making your first edit and the pride that comes afterward. I’ve made too many edits to count at this point, all of which go unseen to the readers who consume the paper I’ve poured so much blood, sweat and tears into. But it’s OK, because I know how important my work is, even if it’s not exactly visible.
The job is “high effort, low reward,” to quote our current Editor-in-Chief. But the reward is how much I grew during my time on Pipe Dream, and bonding with some of the best friends I’ve ever made during our often exhausting — but endlessly rewarding — biweekly production nights. From the socially anxious freshman too timid to put myself out there, to the junior (hopefully) set to embark on an international adventure with a potential path to my dream job carved out a year before graduation, any of my high school friends could tell you the two versions of me are like Jekyll and Hyde. And Pipe Dream, along with the family I made there, is a huge part of that. Holding one of the most important leadership positions in the biggest student organization on campus forced me to become confident in my abilities — doing otherwise would be an error it’s my job to catch. And of course, I had the support of my aforementioned friends, which helped me more than I think they’ll ever understand.
Pipe Dream is a touchstone in my life. It’s the definer of my college experience and because of it, I’ll never use Oxford commas or the word ‘towards’ again.
And now for the shoutouts:
How else would I start my shoutouts than by acknowledging all the wonderful contributors I had the pleasure of overseeing these past three semesters? You guys made productions so bright for me. I’ll always treasure our inside jokes, our laughs about the articles we read, our copy quips, when you guys ask me for permission to go to the bathroom (which I find hilarious) and, of course, when we use the whiteboard I love so much. You were easily a huge highlight of every production.
Kimmy, you’ve been my ride or die since before freshman year, and have supported me throughout all the ups and downs I went through in the crazy past three years. I couldn’t be more grateful for our friendship. You’re my Jimster, Jimmy and Jimberly always.
Val, your stint as my assistant, and the jokes and memories that came from it, was one of the best parts of my time on Pipe Dream. I’m so happy you have experience in long-distance friendships, because it means we’ll definitely continue ours.
Evan, thanks for always bringing your chill vibe to our Copinions corner. Gilly Gill, my fellow Jewish redhead, thanks for the laughs we always have when we’re together. Here’s to many more.
Cherie and Annabeth, thanks for always making stressful productions sunnier, and for being the other two-thirds of our Fun/Copy trio. Kevin, I’m so grateful I met you and we got to do Binghamton Night Live before the coronavirus killed the semester. Kimmy G, I can’t wait to see how well you thrive as News Editor. Remember to not get too zonked.
Ciara, my fabulous protégée: I’m so incredibly proud of how far you’ve come in our weekly trainings. I know you’re going to take great care of my baby — the Copy section. There’s no one else I’d trust with its care. Riccardo, you’ve also come so far in such a short amount of time (but you better take out those Oxfords! I’m watching!).
Sasha and Katy, this was a turbulent year to be leaders, but you helmed our paper in such an impressive way. You’re both going to go on to do amazing things. Ariel and Jeremy, I have full faith you’ll more than successfully pick up where they left off.
And finally, Emily and Bridget, I have too much I could say about you each so I’ll just say this: Before you graduated, I made a promise to you I’d keep your Pipe Dream memory alive. So here I am, doing just that one final time.
Lia Berger is a junior majoring in English and the copy desk chief. She was assistant copy desk chief in fall 2018.