Shiralkar: Why I write for the Daily (and why I enjoy it)

Columnist Parth Shiralkar discusses his unorthodox time at the Iowa State Daily with love and compassion. 

Parth Shiralkar

On Oct. 6 this year, the official Iowa State Daily Twitter account tweeted a consolidated list of letters from the editors (student journalists) about their perceptions of journalism and the roles that they’d undertaken as editors. It was News Engagement Day — I had no idea what that meant. When I read through the stories, it became clear to me that this was a day set aside to foster healthy news engagement and a general awareness of the home-grown press, aimed mainly at a local demographic.

Alarmingly, it also became clear to me that I had been at the Daily for almost a year while having met barely five members of the active newsroom staff in person. Before I came back to the stupid bird app, I had engaged in prolonged discussions with only my direct editors and Spoon, the newspaper’s editorial advisor, who was the one who interviewed me, so it would make sense for me to have talked to him at length.

Being a columnist at the Daily is a peculiar experience — in my case, it has been interesting, to say the least. Apart from social media (which I use sparingly now), there has been no way for me to engage casually with some of the other staff members. Emails tend to get rather awkward for small talk (think discussing brunch over CCs and BCCs), so those are out of the question. Thankfully, at least one social medium and the quarantine have prompted some more fruitful interactions out of us all.

In fact, just this weird communication lapse isn’t all of it. At first I didn’t really give it much thought, but as a student with zero journalism/communication studies under your belt, you begin to get this strange feeling of being at a different level of comprehension than a majority of your colleagues, whose academic tracks are lined with relevant classwork. I do feel out of the loop at times, having missed entire journalistic contexts that drive certain narratives so perfectly.

I have to look up why certain things are the way they are (usage of some punctuation, for example), why certain things simply cannot be the way I would very much prefer them to be. And while it’s completely fine, it’s also a bit strange. It compels me to learn more and rework my perceptions of the journalism world — I love it. I’ve been part of many small communities in my time at Iowa State, and the Daily has perhaps been the most welcoming of them all. Plus, the fan mail is pretty cool.

The Daily gave me an outlet for my thoughts and a deadline for my drafts in a period of my life when I had way too many of both. Then, I let this excuse to write grow into enjoyment for the craft, and here we are. Sure, sometimes I feel detached from the overall machine that this lovely newspaper is, but the support and validation from my co-staffers and the readers is enough to let me know that I’m still a tiny cog in the very thing I look at in awe. Stay hydrated and wear your mask.