Clay poses for a senior photo in Hot Springs, awaiting graduation in May. (photo by Mandy Ballard Photography)

Online Editor-in-Chief, Kaelin Clay, reflects

May 9, 2024

By Online Editor-in-Chief, Kaelin Clay

He’s really taking a chance on me, I thought. Dr. Carter walked up to me in the hallway and asked to talk about interviewing for the position of Editor-in-Chief of the online Signal. It was a normal, tired walk back to my dorm after a full day of class, and it took me a little bit to process what I just expressed interest in. He took a chance on me, and when I was notified that I would be the editor, I felt not only a burst of excitement but also a peace that stemmed from God’s clear hand over the shaping senior year I was about to have.

I only worked with the staff one semester before becoming editor, and I didn’t feel worthy or equipped at first, but I always felt dedicated and passionate. I had known that journalism was my calling for a while, and I knew I had a knack for storytelling. The idea of running a site dedicated to telling the stories of Ouachita, the very place that has shaped my young adult years, was a comforting responsibility. It was a big one, but it helped me find a deepened value in the work that I do.

“Can I interview you for The Signal?” quickly became one of my favorite questions to ask, and I constantly had the next story in mind. It was my duty, but my vision for the site was still blooming. 

When I started the role in August, I knew that I wouldn’t take this role lightly. The legacy of this newspaper is deep and outstanding, and I wanted to only add to that. I brainstormed on how to continue the value of the work that was done before me. It was all I could think about sometimes when I hit the pillow at night. The verdict was that it was time for a redesign. 

I have the course Online Media (one of my favorites) and my slightly nerdy side that’s always been a little too interested in technology projects to blame for the head-first dive into a large project. I lost a lot of sleep over WordPress themes and the ideal footer design, but I didn’t lose sleep for me; I lost sleep for Ouachita, and it was an honor to do so. In December, the site was launched, and I left a mark on the legacy.

It was tempting to take a pause after such a large project, and Christmas break certainly stepped in a bit to help with that, but the work truly never stopped. The mission to do good through telling stories is a journalist’s thought process in everyday life. There’s never time off from any mission as strong as that because we never stop thinking about it. I kept going.

It wasn’t my own ambition that always kept me going; it was the support of my staff, the advisors and my co-editor. My staff was my inspiration. Without them, the stories would have been untold.

Nothing about this year was perfect, but everything about it was worthwhile. Journalism has some hiccups, but the benefits are never hidden. Honestly, that’s just life. There will always be mess-ups and hiccups, but there’s always good to be found in every experience. In this particular experience, I found that I just might’ve made my very favorite memories in the newsroom. There was never a moment that I doubted that.

There was so much good to be found in The Signal, and I can’t express enough gratitude for the outlet that brought me patience, joy and assurance in my purpose: telling stories.

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