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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

Lessons from the Editor

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

(4/2013) Ahh April, a time of spring, renewal, rebirth, and most importantly, laughter! For some reason, we seem to lose track of laughter somewhere in between the idea of spring and the festivities of Easter. Through all the chaos of preparations, we lose a little bit of humor.

Iím happy to say that my life is full of little nuggets of humor: moments when people and events seem a little more humorous than they should. In honor of this time for laughter and mirth, Iíve decided to share some of my experiences with you.

Perhaps one of the more humorous parts of my life is working here at the Emmitsburg News-Journal. Itís been an amazing place to work, especially when Iím getting paid to write. In addition to getting the chance to put my ideas and experiences on paper, Iíve had the opportunity for more than a few laughs thanks to Mike Hillman, our editor and the man who has built this paper from the ground up.

One would assume and anticipate that our meeting conversations would be filled with incredible professionalism and moments extolling the virtues of journalism from a man who runs a very professional paper.

But, that one person would be quite wrong.

I had received an email early on in my first semester of my freshman year asking for English majors who would be willing to write for a local newspaper. Being the young go-getter that I was, I of course applied in a heartbeat, hoping for the chance to get paid for writing my experiences and sharing my insights with the whole campus and with the town of Emmitsburg. Later that month, I got another email saying that not only had I received a position with the paper as its freshman columnist, but I was also supposed to contact Mr. Michael Hillman for further information. Excited beyond all reason, I grabbed my cell phone, sprinted down the stairs like a caffeinated jackrabbit, and dialed Mr. Michael Hillman. So went my first conversation with Mr. Hillman:

Me: "Hello, Mr. Hillman?"

Mr. Hillman: "Yes this is Mr. Hillman who is this?"

Me: "This is Kyle, your new freshman columnist."

Mr. Hillman: "Oh hello Kyle, call me Mike."

Me: "Sure! I have to say Mr. HillmanÖerÖI mean Mike, I am so excited to write for the paper!"

Mike: "Well weíre glad to have you. Oh and Kyle before you start, you should know something."

Me: "Sure, what is it?"

Mike: "I failed English in college."

Yes folks, the man in charge who built the paper from the ground up had bombed his English class like a literary Hindenburg. Hearing this come from the other side of the phone was more than a little shocking, but after a moment to gather my thoughts I replied, "Oh wow, that is actually rather funny." In the back of my mind, I could not help but think, "Dear God, what have I gotten myself into?"

Luckily for all of us, though Mike may have failed English in college, he runs the newspaper incredibly well. He makes sure that only the best content finds its way into the pages of the paper, and that not only is the information enjoyable for our audience but also informative. In addition to policing the content, Mikeís incredibly concerned with our personal growth as writers. He challenges us to come up with creative themes and (when the need strikes him), he gives us assignments to help pique our creative interests.

Coming into this environment, I was impressed by the way Mike runs things. He has an incredible memory for the standards of newspapers around the world, particularly the London Financial Times (if that paper was a woman, Mikeís marriage would be in serious jeopardy) and the standards for professional writing.

Which was great because Mike has absolutely no memory of our names.

I remember I could not stop fidgeting immediately before my first payment meeting with Mike and the other writers for the Emmitsburg News-Journal. I could not believe that I was going to get my first paycheck for something that I had written, and even more miraculously, there would be more paychecks coming my way because of my writing. I was sitting in one of the plush chairs in the library with the other student writers when a thin man carrying a bundle of papers and wearing a flannel shirt came up to us.

"Hello everyoneÖ.and who are you?"

"Iím Kyle, Mr. Hillman. We spoke on the phone."

"Oh, well hello Kyle."

Our meeting went on for another 30 minutes as Mike picked over and analyzed our work and wrote out our checks. He went through everyoneís name and stopped at me.

"Kathryn, Megan, SamÖ.oh whatever your name is!" he exclaimed.

"Its Kyle, Mike."

"Oh! Donít worry Iíll get it."

Spoiler alert, he didnít. Every time the checks were passed around I was boy-of-no-name, much to my amusement of the others. Finally, after my freshman year and the majority of my first semester of sophomore year, I have moved up from "that guy" to "Kyle." There is no guarantee with my last name or anyone elseís. If he happens to remember (which is very rare indeed) he will have no idea how to spell it. When asking you how to spell your last name, he will get so distracted by a new idea he has that he will end up spelling it wrong anyways.

In the end, there are many funny things that Mike has done, but they have served a greater purpose. The sole purpose of our columns is to take our experiences and make them applicable to our own lives and the lives of our readers. I am proud to say that my editor has given me some laughs and more than a few experiences along the way. Iím Kyle Ott, wonít you sit and read for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott