A goodbye to the best student paper around


Alex Burstein conducting one of his first ever newspaper interviews for the Taft Today back in 2018. (Photo courtesy of J.B. Burstein)

By Alex Burstein

If I were to go back and tell my fourth-grade math-loving, literature-despising, sports-obsessed self that I would take the same English elective in high school for three consecutive years, he probably would have laughed and gone back to playing at recess.

Likewise, if I told him the only “team” I’d be “captaining” as a senior in high school would be as co-editor-in-chief of a newspaper, I’d probably receive a laugh or a few tears back. 

Fast forward to a late August 2019 afternoon at a vacation house in Michigan. It was there, I think, my response to those statements from my future self would change from confused to ecstatic.

On that day, instead of running outside and playing or going for ice cream at the local parlor like years past, I was glued to my Chromebook. Pasting quotes and messaging with The Champion’s (then The Warrior’s) sports editor, I slowly but surely wrote together the best (and only) preview of the 2019 Lane Tech Girls Volleyball season.

While it pains me to read that story now, it laid out the groundwork for the greatest, weirdest, funniest, most stressful and most fun four years of my life.

Every student guide to ever give a tour at Lane Tech always says that everyone finds their niche, even in a school of 4500 kids. I can’t confirm or deny their statement for everyone, but I luckily found mine before freshman year ever started.

When I first emailed Lane newspaper’s adviser, Mr. Strom, as a pre-pubescent eighth grader still waiting on my Lane acceptance, I  didn’t know what to expect for the next four years.

I had no idea a global pandemic was on the horizon, meaning my first important interviews would not be recorded on a cheap voice recorder as I pretended to be a New York Times reporter, but instead over Zoom. A global pandemic that first opened my eyes to news reporting, leading to me covering seemingly never-ending contentious union vs. district disputes.

Nor did I know my first time getting thousands of views on a story would come thanks to horribly long but plenty exciting LSC meetings as Lane Tech voted to remove a decades-old symbol and get rid of School Resource Officers during a two-week span one summer.

And how could I possibly have seen our whole news site getting shut down, having to create a new website and celebrating my birthday with an interview on Fox32 Chicago to try to spread awareness for the issue. (Spoiler: we got the website back, but the website fees…still not paid).

This year, I’ve complained about slow news days, slow news weeks, and slow news months to my other editors. As I look back, I really was just spoiled with day-after-days of sometimes scary, sometimes funny, sometimes fascinating stories to write and pass the time during long days of remote and hybrid learning.

While COVID-19 meant that for quite some time, my “newsroom” was not Room 137, but instead my bedroom, my time with The Champion was nothing short of a team effort.

The Editors-in-Chief I have worked under and with at The Champion are some of the smartest writers and best people I have met — from Maggie, who for some reason put a freshman’s stories in the paper, to Finley and Ryan, who guided me as a young editor, to Mara, who challenged me to actually be a leader, and of course Megan and Saskia, who kept me from being a crazy leader.

And that doesn’t even begin to cover the dozens of other editors I’ve worked with at the paper, some of whom I still talk with today, many of whom shaped me into the reporter and person I am today. 

The Champion has been almost like a fairy-tale ride for me. The paper has caused happiness and stress. Burnout and excitement. Love and heartbreak. Hard-work and fulfillment.

I can count more than the number of fingers on my hand the times I’ve cried because of this paper (mainly looking at you, Adobe InDesign). But every time I see a student sitting by a locker, reading a copy of the paper on the morning of distribution, it makes all of those tears worth it.

Informing and entertaining the students, teachers, alumni and Lane community as a whole will always be worth it. 

Half of these papers will end up in the garbage can by the end of the day, and the number of people who read here to the bottom of page 11 is probably in the dozens, but for those of you who read to here, or who read any of the other thousands of words I’ve attempted to coherently string together in the past: thank you.

As I move on to major in broadcast journalism, this may be the last time I ever write a print story as an editor, much less as an editor-in-chief. But there’s no publication I’d rather conclude my print journalism editor career with than this one.

In four years, I’ve written over 100 articles, yet this will be the hardest of all of them to close.

Thank you Lane Tech Champion. Until later, Alex Burstein.