I almost quit Pipe Dream. It was April 2013 and I was a freshman training to be an assistant news editor. Back then, the news assistants didn’t leave until at least 2:30 a.m., and I was struggling to adjust to the grind.

It would be crazy, I told myself, to commit to an extracurricular that required me to spend eight or nine hours every Monday and Thursday night in a basement office. I was about to embark on my sophomore year of college, and I couldn’t spend that amount of time making a student newspaper.

Fast-forward three years from those grueling April nights and I’m approaching the end of my tenure as Editor-in-Chief of Pipe Dream. By my (rudimentary) calculations, I’ve spent more than 1,600 hours — or over two full months — of my life in the newsroom putting together a newspaper, not counting the extra 1,000 hours spent just hanging out.

Those are 1,600 hours I could have spent studying for my classes, going to the bars on Thursdays or even learning a useful skill — coding comes to mind.

Instead, I made Pipe Dream. I spent my time covering, writing and editing stories, as well as running meetings and headlining the paper. Since late April 2013, there hasn’t been an issue of Pipe Dream that I haven’t had a hand in creating.

It’s remarkably difficult to put a newspaper on the stands every Tuesday and Friday, particularly as an independent organization at a University with no journalism school or major. The amount of man-hours put in by Pipe Dream’s vast network of (volunteer) editors and contributors every issue is close to 500, and we do it knowing that most readers only pick up a copy for a few minutes.

This year, on nights that were stressful — when no stories seemed to be coming out just the way I wanted them or I just felt like getting to bed before 3:45 a.m. — I wondered if I’d made the right choice by joining Pipe Dream’s staff.

What if I had gone abroad and traveled through Europe? What if I had committed myself to a variety of clubs and groups that only required some of my time each, rather than one that required all of it? What if I’d joined a fraternity?

But, the truth is that without Pipe Dream, Binghamton University would have been a vastly different place for me. I read, wrote and learned about students and events that I would never otherwise have been aware of had I had a more “traditional” college experience. This was an awareness that brought with it a unique perspective to my four years at BU.

That perspective was accompanied by the responsibilities of the job. The Editor-in-Chief is tasked with making difficult decisions on a regular basis. Sometimes, I messed up. Maybe something didn’t get properly fact-checked or an angle in a story wasn’t as fleshed out as it should have been. When that happened, I’d receive a lot of grief from our readers.

But sometimes, unflattering stories about popular individuals and organizations were covered accurately and fairly. Sometimes, a contributor shared an opinion that rubbed some people the wrong way. I’d get grief about this, too.

It can be difficult to do a job when you only get feedback once something goes wrong or someone is mad about what you’ve published. But maybe that’s what’s special about newspapers. They’re a little like municipal water providers — unnoticed, but vital. We don’t really think about them when the water is flowing good and clean, but all eyes are on them when something goes wrong.

Having said all of this, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. I’ve spent more time in the newsroom than most staffers, and yet it hardly feels like enough. But here’s the neat thing about Pipe Dream: though you may leave it, it never leaves you.

When I’m asked about college 15 or 20 years from now, I won’t be talking about the classes or the parties. I’ll be talking about the independent newspaper headquartered in UUW B03. I’ll be thinking about the people who sacrificed their time, energy and social lives to give Binghamton University’s students a newspaper to be proud of. I’ll be thinking about the friends I made and the experiences we shared creating something special, together.

And now that I’m moving on into the great beyond of the “real world,” it’ll be weird to not have the comfort of the newsroom to fall back on. But I know that if I ever need to be taken back to a wonderful period of my life, Pipe Dream’s website is only a click away.


Now, for some shout outs (in no particular order):

Pipe Dream’s staff: I owe each and every one of you a big thank you for all the hard work you put into this paper. Whether you spent two hours or 30 hours in the office every week, you are invaluable to our operation. I’ve been honored to be your Editor-in-Chief this year, and I sincerely hope that you enjoyed being on Pipe Dream just as much as I did. Keep doing great things; I’ll be following along as a reader.

Emma: Who could ask for a better office wife? We’ve gone through a lot together in our time on Pipe Dream, and it seems only fitting that we leave it together as well. I’d tell you to keep in touch, but I’m sure you’ll have no problem telling me all about Google and Hawaii.

Dan, Christina and Jim: I’ve told stories about you guys to this year’s staffers more times than I can count. To have had the privilege of taking over positions on Pipe Dream that each of you held is something that still seems surreal to me — after all, who can forget the neon tank top incident back when I was a freshman? Dan, you’re the first Pipe Dream EIC I ever saw in action, and I’ve tried my best to live up to what (I imagined) were your lofty standards. Christina, you’ve been a shoulder to lean on when things got tough this year, and I can’t thank you enough. Jim, for some reason you saw something in me way back in 2012. Thanks for going with your gut and hiring me, and thanks for not finishing your degree so that you could come back to Binghamton and hang out some more. I hope I made the three of you proud.

Katie: What else is there to say after all our 3:30 a.m. drives home after productions? There’s nobody I would rather share the misery of reading every issue of Pipe Dream cover to cover with than you. You are the Niall to my Harry, the Bucky to my Steve, the Nihilist to my Meme. I’ll miss you.

E.Jay: You did something that I believed to be impossible: made Binghamton sports interesting to read about. Your commitment to the quality of writing in Pipe Dream Sports is unparalleled. I can only hope that more people learn from your example.

Rachel: You didn’t mention me in your senior column, but I’ll be the bigger man and mention you in mine. We may be leaving this paper a year apart, but it truly feels like we went through our Pipe Dream experience together. I’m still planning on lording it over you that I have the longer tenure, though.

News: Carla, Joe, Davina and Geoff. Four people with whom I’ve had the pleasure of keeping the SA and BU administration honest. You are all tremendously hard workers, and your commitment to Pipe Dream over the years has been unparalleled. Alex, keep doing amazing things and bring a quality to Pipe Dream News that it hasn’t seen in years. I can’t wait to see what you do.

Ben and Franz: It’s hard to say goodbye to people you know you’ll be spending all your time with in the future, but I’m going to give it a shot. Ben, that you could be my best friend and also my colleague on the paper has meant a lot to me over the past few years — I love you. Franz, has a better friendship ever arisen from a conversation neither party remembers and a photo in the bed of a pickup truck? The world may never know.

Mike: I need to thank you for two things. First, I need to thank you for making my job much easier by handling Pipe Dream’s finances so expertly. Second, I need to thank you for taking me to Franklin Barbecue. See you at MeatFest.

Will: You’ve been on this paper longer than anyone. That we lived next door to each other freshman year is a coincidence that I still have trouble believing. Good luck in Seattle, where you’ll be doing bigger and better things. But please, for the love of God, take that chair with you.

Jeff: I have high hopes for you. Don’t let me down.

Nicolas Vega is a senior majoring in English.