Taking chances on me

Photo of Tarunika Kappor

I never did high school journalism. 

I never did high school journalism — that was probably one of the most common facts I told people when I joined The Daily Californian news department as a general assignment reporter, or GA.

It was January 2020, and as I had done for the past two semesters, I sent in my application for The Weekender. When I received my third expected rejection email, I shrugged it off. Four days later, however, I received an email I hadn’t been expecting. Kate Finman, one of the news editors at the time, had read my application and thought I would be a good fit for news. 

I was taken aback by Kate’s email. Me, someone who had never done high school journalism, was a good fit for a news department? I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity. So I went in for a news test, and to my extreme surprise, I ended up being hired as a GA.

As someone who had struggled getting into extracurriculars in high school and at UC Berkeley, I was overjoyed. Joining the Daily Cal was the coolest thing that had ever happened to me on campus (besides getting off the UC Berkeley waitlist).

Writing news articles was unfamiliar territory. Though I wouldn’t say I took to it like a duck out of water, the process of writing articles was structured — and if there’s anything I’m good at other than writing, it’s sticking to routine. 

Barely two months after I was hired, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Upper management decided we would edit remotely around the same time I decided to return to my childhood home for a few days.

A few days turned into a year and a half, and during that period of time, the Daily Cal was my only constant. With nothing better to do, I signed up to write for the summer and convinced a friend to apply as well. 

It’s been like clockwork: Every Monday and Wednesday I’ve been assigned an article, and every Friday I have attended a staff meeting at the same time for the last seven semesters. 

And last summer, I decided I wanted to see the news department from the other side — as an editor. I applied to be a summer deputy news editor, and once again to my extreme surprise, I was hired.

I thought I knew how much work, time and effort were involved in being an editor, but I was proven wrong. As I was still living at home during the summer — a few months shy of returning to campus for my senior year — all my parents and older sister heard was “Daily Cal” as the newspaper became all I talked about. 

For that one summer, I wouldn’t say I was devoted to the Daily Cal, but I was close to that. I grew close to my fellow deputy editor Sam and the executive news editor Aditya, and we developed inside jokes and elaborate gags that we still reference to this day. The entire summer news department — including the GAs we hired that summer and even some staffers from other departments — also heard about my alleged distaste for mangoes. I will not confirm or deny how I feel about the fruit. 

There would be days that we were so slogged with articles that the only way to cope was to send stupid memes and make stupid jokes to each other. There were nights that I went to bed with my eyes burning and my brain feeling like mush because I had spent half a day staring at my laptop screen. There were mornings where Sam, Aditya and I spent several hours preparing for our weekly staff meetings — which felt more like we were hanging out than working because of how invested we became in the theme of our meeting slides. 

Then, when the end of the summer came and it was time to relinquish my duties to the next semester’s editors, I stepped back. Immediately, it was almost as if a great weight that I hadn’t even been aware of had been lifted off my shoulders, and I returned to being a regular news reporter for the next year.

With a year placed between my one term as an editor, I can say with certainty that my memories of those times have become glossy and romanticized from all the stress, anxiety and near-terror over having been near-single-handedly responsible for preventing the Daily Cal from being sued into oblivion. But I would still choose to return to that summer as it lives in my mind; an encapsulation of the pride and the hopes and dreams that I had for my senior year of college. It cannot be replicated nor erased, just like my time at the Daily Cal.

And I’m not alone in putting my blood, sweat and tears in bringing the Daily Cal to life on a daily basis. There have been hundreds of other staffers in the last 150 years, and I hope there will be more in the next 150 years. I hope that all our efforts in saving the Daily Cal this year won’t be for naught. 

With that being said, there are so many people to thank for my time at the Daily Cal that I don’t even know where to start. 

I thank Kate Finman for hiring me into news seven semesters ago and being an amazing mentor. I thank Aditya Katewa for seeing my potential as a news editor and being patient. I thank Samantha Lim for being my co-deputy news editor and having my back. I thank every news editor who polished my articles into something readable.

And thank you to the Daily Cal for everything that I’ve accomplished.

Tarunika Kapoor was a senior staff news reporter. She joined The Daily Californian in spring 2020 as a general assignment reporter and was a general assignment reporter again in summer 2020, a beat reporter in fall 2020 and spring 2021, a deputy news editor in summer 2021 and a senior staff news reporter in fall 2021. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science and minors in creative writing and data science.