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The Daily Tar Heel

Farewell column: When it all sinks in

20240425_cox_opinion-ethan-e-horton-farewell-column
City & State Editor Ethan E. Horton reads the City & State section of a print paper in The DTH newsroom on Thursday, April 25, 2024.

I’ve never cried in The Daily Tar Heel’s office.

To someone unfamiliar with The DTH, that’s normal. One would expect to not cry in their place of work.

But here? This inaccessible, brick, weird-smelling office is different.

Once you close the door behind you, the hours pass at triple speed. The snacks disappear frighteningly fast. The politicians do all the wrong things, and someone (read: Ethan E. Horton) has to jump on a breaking. The commas are in the wrong places. The art is placed on the wrong print page and the files for the other pages are corrupted.

And when you’re exhausted after a day of massive corrections and lengthy meetings, you know deep down you’ll go through the same time warp again tomorrow.

(Burnout and other issues The DTH struggles with, like a lack of diversity, have been written about extensively in farewell columns by people much smarter than me.)

Maybe I could’ve even cried last year when the editors I loved so much left for better things. Maybe I could’ve cried on Aug. 28 when the campus locked down because of a shooting. But I didn’t, and now it’s become a bit of a thing that I’m among the few long-time editors who have not cried in the office.

Part of it is definitely stunted emotional growth.

The other part, I think, is that I haven’t let anything sink in.

After the shooting, I shoved the feelings down and did the news anyway. When investigating nonprofits and campaign finance was overwhelming, I pushed on anyway. When I really just wanted to lay down or spend time with my girlfriend or eat (when time passes that fast, meals are sometimes a luxury), I found another story assignment anyway.

Maybe that’s also a product of stunted emotional growth. But I like to think about it differently — maybe when it all does sink in, I’ll cry.

Maybe it’ll happen when I realize that, in a few days, I won’t have any more office karaoke, or that I won’t have any more “happy night” goodbyes or sticky note-covered desktops or slanderous jokes or DTH Election Night pizza. I sure do love Election Night pizza.

Maybe it’ll happen when I realize that The DTH was exactly what I needed.

Guillermo Molero became my hero the second he hired me to be a writer in 2021, and he still wildly exceeded expectations by becoming a mentor and friend.

Former editor-in-chief Praveena Somasundaram gave me my first glimmer of journalistic hope when she started calling me “Bestie Ethan” for staying to edit with management.

Samuel Long, my fellow city & state assistant editor last year, became one of my best friends and my roommate.

Emmy Martin, my boss for two-and-a-half years, taught me how to do the job I was meant to do. (I don’t believe in destiny — but if I did, I was absolutely destined to be The DTH’s City & State editor.)

Walker Livingston has often been the only reason I got through days in the office without crying. She makes me wholeheartedly believe in the future of this little paper and the next generation of journalists.

Lucy Marques has been the shining light of our desk since she was hired as a writer. Watching her come into her own as a journalist has been unbelievably rewarding.

Kathryn DeHart has never once lost confidence in herself, and she stepped into one of the toughest roles in the newsroom with incredible (Katie) grace.

Listening to Abby Pender’s wild tales or even sitting next to her while she was writing made so many of my days.

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Laney Crawley’s rise to the top was inevitable. Eliza Benbow is innovating how we do journalism. Lilly Egan’s laugh was the best part of any joke. Allie Kelly was the stable rock the newsroom balanced on. There was never a dull moment with Emma Geis. I missed out on Hannah Collett’s hugs for far too long. Nobody could have done Caitlyn Yaede’s job better. Shelby Swanson dictated our vocabulary. Carson Elm-Picard unfairly ended up at the butt of a ton of jokes. Lauren Rhodes’ repetitive injuries were no reflection of her unwavering, positive presence for the newsroom.

When it sinks in that I’ll never be in the office to be the old man who knows things, or when it sinks in that I’ll never be in the office to edit with a writer who’s getting the hang of it, or when it sinks in that we’re all going in different directions — maybe then.

Sooner or later, I'm sure it'll sink in that this might be among the most fulfilling things I’ll ever do and that it’s surely all downhill from here. I got to learn from amazing journalists and laugh with amazing friends, and I’m just not guaranteed the same unbelievable luck outside of this office.

Maybe then, I’ll cry, and maybe I’ll even pretend I’m in the office when I do.

And honestly, if it weren’t coming to an end, I wouldn’t ever let it sink in. I'd keep doing this DTH thing forever — without crying — if I could spend it with the people inside.

@ethanehorton1

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com


Ethan E. Horton

Ethan E. Horton is the 2023-24 city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a city & state assistant editor and as the 2023 summer managing editor. Ethan is a senior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and political science, with a minor in history.