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The Daily Tar Heel

Farewell Column: It's 3 a.m. and I can't think of a good headline

Allie Kelly was the 2022-2023 managing editor and will graduate in May 2023.

I’ve always been a morning person. 

I leave the blinds of my bedroom window cracked slightly so I wake up to the sunlight. I’m most productive before noon and I subscribe to the novelty of lazy Sunday pancakes. It’s bright and I like the quiet.

The Daily Tar Heel has made me endlessly grateful for mornings.

The 3 a.m. variety.

Newsroom mornings don’t come with toast or a side of scrambled eggs. There’s still (lots of) coffee involved but slightly less silence. There’s delirious laughter, spontaneous karaoke and strong opinions about punctuation.

The news cycle doesn’t sleep — and sometimes I don’t either. 

There is so much about this job I couldn’t anticipate. Being a student at the school I report on meant I processed a community mental health crisis as both a student and a journalist. I often had to choose between studying for a midterm and making a print deadline or cover a breaking news story during class. 

I made mistakes, fell short and woke up from many libel-related stress dreams. I cried in the conference room, threatened to quit as a joke and genuinely thought about quitting for real. But, like I said, there is so much about this job that surprised me. 

Passing out NCAA Tournament victory papers to a blocks-long line of students, my hands stained from fresh printer ink, was the perfect adrenaline rush. Pressing the publish button on The Abortion Issue is a memory I will never forget. We spent long hours waiting for election results, got irrationally excited about public records and laughed way too hard at our own jokes.

I learned news judgment, confidence and far more about the Board of Trustees than any student should know. I investigated issues that directly impact our community, a responsibility I never took for granted. And I spent every day with a group of people that care immensely about journalism, thoughtful storytelling and each other.

I’m a different person than the enthusiastic first-year scribbling notes at a Faculty Council meeting. I’m no longer the exhausted desk assistant clinging to story assignments and AP Style when the rest of my life was falling apart. Nor am I still the earnest University Desk editor, organized and unintentionally intimidating to my staff writers. But each experience made me a better leader. 

I am lucky to have spent time on The Daily Tar Heel masthead and I owe the world to “WoManagement.” Because this place has given me a lot of the people I love most. I have so many thank yous to give through hugs, inside jokes and handwritten notes.

I’m grateful for every day, week, life, “Let me know when you get home,” “I like that idea,” “I love you,” bet against the Marlins, bell ring, pinky promise, sticky note, listserv text message, Wednesday, hot girl walk, rooftop sunset, quad lay, quote wall entry, -ism, dog, blue box, night in “our booth” at Linda’s and morning advice session with my roommates after I came home too late. 

And while I’m here — dad, thanks for teaching me how to write. 

There’s peace in handing over my keys to 109 E. Franklin St. It means I can exist outside of this office, the place I did a lot of growing up. 

Leaving is like 3 a.m. 

Everything stops for just a moment and the next thing hasn’t started yet. The sky is still a little too dark to be called dawn, and the number on the clock doesn’t matter anymore. Words carry more than their usual honesty. 

I’m on the edge of a move, of a career and of not being able to name every UNC administrator’s full name and title without Googling it. For the better part of four years, I have rewritten ledes, done Tar Heel Tracker math to make sure I’ll graduate and stayed up way past my bedtime. Now, everything has stopped spinning. 

It’ll pass. Stories break and sunshine comes through the window. 

I’ll start the pancake batter.

There’s maple syrup in the kitchen.  

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And I might pick up a newspaper to read.