We got into a lot of trouble.
That’s mostly what I remember about the year Adam de Havenon ’01 and I became the News’s Arts and Living editors. The editorial board of 2001 assumed control of the Starship 202 York with an imposing sense of history and a mandate to act as dignified stewards of the paper that had birthed Briton Hadden ’20, Henry Luce ’20, the Buckleys, David Gergen ’63 et al.
Adam and I did not. Co-conspirators with 40 oz. of beer in brown paper bags, we wanted to destroy what we had inherited and build anew. At the behest of our responsible Editor in Chief Letitia Stein ’01 and Managing Editor Blair Golson ’01, who felt most acutely the pressure to continue the News’s respected legacy, this led to hours of intense debate and repeated use of the words “concerted” and “effort” to approve everything, beginning with a new name — “scene” — and the font in which we would print it — Crillee.
Adam and I had a clear, stubborn vision for what we wanted our section to be — a creatively packaged, creatively written distraction that was as fun to read as it was informative. We wanted stranger graphics, more creative fonts and magazine-style presentation as attention-grabbing as the people and things we were covering. We defended this vision with a contumacious flourish that only self-righteous college students and really famous people can get away with. Why can’t our writers swear? Who says we can’t include first-person stories? More than a few times, we stormed out of someone’s office in a Kristen Stewarty sulk. I’m not sure we won the fight over curse words, but we did win our writers the word “I.”
Often, we missed our deadline — not because we weren’t working but because we wouldn’t stop working, tweaking. (Shame on us.)
But as much as we pushed poor Tim Lovelock ’01 into creating illustrations or Chris Deutsch ’01 into tweaking our layout even when their deadlines for the daily paper loomed, we pushed ourselves harder. We loved our section and the subjects it covered. We neglected class work, sleep and relationships for it. Woke up at the ass crack of dawn to photograph the ass crack of a Pundit-sympathizer standing naked atop the Women’s Table for a story about nudity on campus. Needled the administration and threaded anonymous sources for a story about sexual assault at Yale. Cajoled reluctant stoner friends into being sourced on a drug use story.
We also loved our writers and insisted on creating a place for them to grow and experiment. I’d like to think we did an all right job. I was remarkably proud of our former “scene” writers Chris Rovzar ’03 and Noelle Hancock ’02 when they went on to various high profile publications in New York and even landed a few gigs on TV.
It’s a funny thing to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of anything in print right now, when newspapers have been writing their own obituaries for the past five years. The Yale Daily News will probably always survive, because small communities will always need their own newspapers of record: I learned this while working as an arts editor in Nantucket. But I also think it’s fair to conclude that something about scene — as 10 years of editors and writers have reinterpreted and fought over it — must have worked.
And yet, if a new group of A&L upstarts someday wants to destroy the “scene” it inherits and start anew, I might suggest only that the group should make a concerted effort to keep experimenting. Personally, I was never married to the name scene. That might have been a fight Adam and I didn’t win.