When I was 8 years old, the teenage boy down the street started a lawn care business.
Our neighbors could read all about it in the first ever edition of the neighborhood newsletter, whose name has been lost to time, which was entirely produced by a certain curious 8-year-old.
After finishing my little newspaper, I put it in every mailbox in the neighborhood and waited for everyone to read it.
No one ever did.
Instead, every single copy ended up back in my own mailbox, collected and put there by our mail carrier with a note scrawled over the top issue that said something like “You can’t do this.”
When I was 17 years old, the university I had just begun attending sued the student newspaper I was just about to write my first article for.
The editors at the time had requested documents via the Open Records Act, and UK filed a lawsuit against the Kernel to avoid handing them over. It was the university’s way of saying, “You can’t do this.”
Well, in my experience, Kernel editors aren’t really bothered by what they’re told they can’t do. In fact, it’s typically just more motivation to do what supposedly can’t be done.
Over my last three years at the Kernel, and especially during my past year as editor-in-chief, I’ve seen over and over again the extraordinary things that the staff of the Kentucky Kernel can do.
We stood in the freezing rain on State Street as frenzied fans’ celebration turned to destruction. We were the only news source on the scene, and I spent the next week granting permission to more than 20 news outlets who wanted to use our footage.
We turned cars into mobile newsrooms to cover President Donald Trump’s visit to Richmond and former Vice President Joe Biden’s fish fry in support of Amy McGrath.
We survived a seven-day stretch that included two devastating football losses to Georgia and Tennessee; a less-than-ideal start to the basketball season with a loss to Duke; election night, with reporter and photographer teams at every local candidate’s watch party; and a bomb threat to the university that created a bizarre 24-hour news cycle. Not only did we survive it; we (in my biased opinion) covered every event well.
We squeezed nearly every senior member of our staff into our tiny, tiny newsroom to celebrate Christmas with Cane’s chicken and Secret Santa gifts, spending a rare night off not making a paper but enjoying one another’s company.
We drove about 12 hours south to Orlando to cover the football team’s historic win in the Citrus Bowl, which was many people’s dreams come true, then we together visited Disney World, where everyone’s dreams come true.
We won the General Excellence Award for student publications of our size in the state at the annual Kentucky Press Association convention in January. I cheered with pride in my heart and tears in my eyes.
We raised hell, along with other student journalists, in the words of Peter Baniak, outgoing KPA president and Lexington Herald-Leader editor and general manager.
It’s what we set out to do.
My year as editor has ended, and as I look back, this is what I know to be true: We did what we aimed to do. There is more to be done, always, but words cannot express the privilege it was to be a part of what the Kernel has accomplished this year.
Just as my high school senior quote was by Hermione Granger, I’m not sure this reflection would be complete without a Harry Potter reference, and naturally one came to my mind.
The Marauders Map, after being used for troublemaking by students such as Harry Potter and the Weasley twins, can be wiped clean of evidence with one simple phrase. It’s what comes to my mind when I reflect on my time as editor, another way to say that we did what we set out to do— that we raised hell.