Hannah Rudderham was The Aquinian's editor-in-chief for the 2021-22 academic year. (Submitted: Scott McIntyre)

If anyone ever tells you student journalism is easy, tell them to take it back.

When I came to university, I was somewhat shy, timid and didn’t stand up for myself. I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but after years of being told that I was “too soft,” I was determined to toughen up.  

Little did I know, student journalism is where that would happen.

I started writing for The Aquinian as a volunteer, mainly in the arts and features sections. I was a sucker for what journalists like to call “fluff pieces.” In my second year, I continued on this path. By the end of my second year, I applied for a staff position. I remember being in my interview and telling the panel I would love to be the new arts or features editor. They looked up from their papers and said something like, “what about news?” I giggled because I think I wrote one news story up until that point. I told them, “sure, I’ll take anything,” but didn’t expect much.

When I got the phone call offering me the position of news editor for my third year, I accepted, but looked at my mom after getting off the phone and said, “news?”

Not only was I dipping my toes into news for the first time, but it was also during a global pandemic — a pandemic that halted most in-person news events. But within the first few weeks, I helped cover an election, a week of protest activity for Clinic 554 and breaking news. I felt like I found my niche.

When it came to the end of the year, I applied for editor-in-chief. After getting the job, I was thrilled. But I had no idea what was in store.

My first time taking a phone call from someone who was angry about one of our stories was surreal. They told us we did “bad journalism” and I was a little startled. I could confidently say it wasn’t bad journalism and it was, in fact, a story I felt pleased to publish.

But that’s the thing with journalism. Everyone has their own opinions and more often than not, those opinions are not in favour of the media.

This year, I witnessed a storm of online harassment towards journalists on Twitter and other social media platforms. The Aquinian also had its fair share of online harassment. It was an interesting dynamic because at first, I felt hurt. But after reflecting, I realized if I’m confident in the way I conduct myself as a journalist and the types of stories I’m passionate about publishing – that’s all that matters. I’m grateful I got to learn these lessons on a smaller scale at The Aquinian.

But the news stories and life lessons aren’t even the best parts of this job. The part I loathe leaving the most is the people. I met many sources whom I connected with over their stories. For a small town, Fredericton is chock-full of incredible people doing incredible things.

I also had an amazing team behind us the entire time. Starting with Hana, I don’t have a large enough word count to say how lost I would’ve been without her. Your managing editor isn’t just a friend; they’re your rock. I can’t count on two hands how many times I called Hana crying because I wanted to quit. We had each other to lean on in the good and bad times. The bond we created is unbreakable. But let’s not get me started on the fact you’re moving to a new country…

Then there’s my professor, Philip Lee. He guided, taught and helped me achieve everything I wanted this year. It also helps he’s the first person I could go to when I feared we might be on the brink of getting sued.

Our volunteers are the backbone of The Aquinian. Without them, we’d be putting out one, maybe two, stories per week for each section. But with their dedication and time, I won’t be surprised if I open my phone one day to a national breaking news story by a familiar name. 

Our news editor, Jessi, is one of the strongest and hardest working individuals I know. It’s magnificent to see her growth from the first time she wrote for my section to how she made the section her own.

Our features editor, Rachel, proved to be truly resilient. Sometimes, she’d be the only writer in her section and she’d still turn in her stories with a smile on her face.

Summer, our sports editor, is sweet and compassionate. She has the skills of an editor, but the empathy of a heartfelt human being. I never had the urge to write sports in my life, but if it was for Summer’s section, I’d probably do it.

Peter, our radio producer, and Jacob, our video producer, were supposed to be one role for one person — multimedia. But we just had to hire them both. And they impressed me more than I can say. Peter created the Top of the Hill Weekly podcast and built it from the ground up. Jacob crafted artful masterpieces and taught me the essential skills of video production. I can’t wait to see what Jacob accomplishes as features editor next year.

Our social media and advertising editor, Estefania, is kind and dedicated. Despite being a part of a million campus clubs, she still manages to be extremely dependable. Thinking back on her work within the first few weeks of the job and comparing it to now is the epitome of growth. I can’t wait to watch her continue to thrive in this role next year.

Giuliana is our senior writer, but she does much more than write. Her interviewing skills and quick turnarounds are admirable. Her strength is contagious. She will do amazing things as she carries on the torch as next year’s news editor.

Brooklyn, our arts editor, and Aaron, our photo editor, are two of the most capable people to step into the managing and EIC roles for next year. I know that everything Hana and I tried to build this year — like a comprehensive training period, a mental health-first approach and a team that feels valued and supported — will be continued or made even better. They are our legacy and I couldn’t be more proud.

Journalism is not easy. You must have the strength to brush off unproductive criticism and crank out news that is often traumatic or scary. But student journalism is a whole different ballpark. You have to work under the expectations of a mainstream news organization but with little to no resources and also have the empathy to love and support your team through every endeavour.

To Aaron and Brooklyn, next year you will do great things. Remember, I’m always just a phone call away (anyway, you know I won’t be able to resist checking in and watching you all spread your wings and fly).

With love,

Hannah Rudderham

Editor-in-Chief 2021-22