WALTER: The show must go on


In the radio studio with my sister, Natalie, after airing Dad Rock Radio.

I was rejected from the first Marquette Wire job I applied for — a projects reporter position in 2015. I was fresh out of high school with virtually no journalism experience but knew I wanted to write for the campus newspaper as soon as humanly possible.

I had applied over the summer in a flurry of excitement and anxiety. Once I got to campus, I would finally get to try my hand at reporting. I had been a writer my whole life and was infatuated with the idea of getting to tell other people’s stories as a career. Also, I was met with doubt by some of my high school peers when I chose to study journalism, so I was eager to prove them wrong.

But initially, things were not going well. I had almost missed my Skype interview because I was in a different time zone. And once I finally spoke with the projects editor, I was nervous, fumbled through the questions and had roughly no experience to show.

It was frustrating but I asked myself: am I really going to give up that easily? Absolutely not.

I applied for a news reporter position next and landed it. Turns out, it was the perfect place to start. I got to cover exciting stories about researchers and ambitious students working on scientific projects all year. It kindled my love for science journalism and showed me how much I was capable of. A kind of reporter boot camp, if you will.

Visiting Delzer in Waukesha to see the Blue Issue of the Marquette Journal print in fall 2018. Photo by Jordan Johnson.

In those first few months I learned I had something in common with many of my Wire peers: we were ruthless. We were so in love with journalism that we would do anything to practice and preserve it. We balanced our positions on top of classwork, second and third jobs, sports, side projects and other clubs. It was typical to pull all-nighters in Johnston Hall. And we didn’t complain when we had several deadlines to meet in a single day but were suddenly slammed with breaking news.

Over the past four years we made it through two election nights, countless car crashes, administrative changes and protests. We broke stories that gained national attention. We won hundreds of awards, spoke on panels and made headlines with our work.

But on a day-to-day basis, it wasn’t about accomplishments.

I’ll fondly remember the late, late nights I spent in the newsroom – first in the basement, then on the second floor of Johnston – editing Tribune pages until my eyes felt swollen. Or the Friday nights during my freshman and sophomore year when my co-host Maryam Tunio and I crammed way too many people in the radio studio to hang out while we played our show. Or the feeling of pride I had for my team when we visited Delzer in Waukesha last fall to watch the Blue Issue of the Marquette Journal print. Or the countless laughs that filled Studio 7 during the Christmas episode of Marquette Lately that had our studio so packed there was barely any room to stand.

In the radio studio freshman year.

It was about the experience. The people, projects and the purpose it gave us all.

I was incredibly eager and humbled when asked to take on the role as executive director last year. I had flourished in my roles as news and arts & entertainment editor during my sophomore and junior year, so I longed for a new challenge.

What I didn’t know when I accepted the position was that it would come with a price.

The day I started my job was the day before my dad died. I was still abroad for a semester in Germany and had just finished my final remote training session with former executive director Patrick Thomas. A few hours later, everything in my life came to a screeching halt.

My dad’s sudden passing overshadowed everything I did this year. I found myself stumbling through a fog and being reminded of him constantly. There were nights I would go home and cry myself to sleep on my couch because I felt like I couldn’t do anything else. Sometimes I would have vivid dreams that my dad faked his death, only to wake up and remember my reality was a nightmare.

There were many days I thought I couldn’t do this job. I wanted to quit. The mental weight of juggling the dozens of daily responsibilities to keep the Wire running and trying to process my grief was too much.

With my dad and grandpa as a child. Both passed away during my time at Marquette.

Slowly but surely I remembered how strong I was. The same Jenn that got rejected from the first position she applied for freshman year and had since spent countless hours laboring over Tribune edits, Journal stories, budgets and broadcasts wasn’t going to give up.

I owe a lot to student media advisor Mark Zoromski, who was not only an invaluable resource but also a friend. He never hesitated when I came into his office just to talk. Even if he had other tasks to do, he would sit and listen to me complain, worry and try to sort things out.

The accomplishments we made this year as an organization were mostly due to the strength of my team, namely student managers Aly Prouty, Sydney Czyzon, Tara Schumal and Gabby Powell. They are passionate, fearless leaders and incredible team workers. When I was weak, they were strong. They kept this show going.

And it would be unfair not to recognize the support I have gotten from my family. My mom has always been there for me and this year was no exception. My sisters and I have grown even closer through the creation of Dad Rock Radio, a show we host every Friday in memory of our dad. And my amazing relatives around the world have been some of the most loyal supporters who tune in every week.

This coming Friday concludes my four-year career at the Wire. I have so much to be proud of. Though my days in Johnston will soon be over, the road in front of me extends far and wide.

Is this the end? Hell no. I’m just getting started.