May 8, 2022

PICHINI | My Most Formative Experience at Cornell

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If it wasn’t for one vote, I would not be writing this column, nor would I have been as involved with The Sun as I have been. Let me explain. 

Prior to entering Cornell as a sophomore transfer student in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, I spent my freshman year at Boston College. At BC, I didn’t have any particular direction or aim, so when club recruitment came around, I attended the information session for the school’s independent student newspaper, The Heights. 

Soon after joining the sports section, I found a nice groove in covering the Boston College Eagles across a variety of sports. When November rolled around and it was time for elections for the editorial board, I decided to throw my hat in the ring for the position of assistant sports editor. 

In my election, I was pitted against another very capable writer, so I wasn’t exactly expecting a victory. After giving my speech and answering numerous questions from the current editors, I returned back to my dorm and got a surprising call — I was elected to the position. 

As I later learned from the head sports editor, I had won the election by just a single vote. If I had lost, my involvement with the paper would have likely tapered off, and my time working for the newspaper would have been a mere blip on my radar. 

Instead, I became ingratiated with The Heights, and I fell in love with the work that I was doing. It was illuminating to bring the stories of athletes to life on the page, and by the time I transferred to Cornell, I knew I wanted to continue this work. 

Once I stepped foot on campus during orientation, I reached out via Twitter to the sports editor at the time, Raphy Gender ’21, who, along with the assistant sports editor Christina Bulkeley ’21, welcomed me with open arms. Lucky enough, I learned that there was a vacancy on the editorial board due to one of the assistant sports editors being on study abroad. Within two months, I ascended to the editorial board and was back to doing what I loved. 

In my time as both an assistant sports editor and later as head sports editor, I have grown immensely in terms of my writing, motivation and leadership. When I first started at The Sun, I recall putting into the paper anywhere from ten to an upwards of 25 hours a week, as I served as a beat reporter for both football and basketball while also desking once a week. 

While this was a hefty time commitment, it was incredibly rewarding. Not only was I seeing and documenting the striking success of Cornell’s sports teams — including men’s and women’s hockey simultaneously achieving a No. 1 ranking — I was growing as a writer while also developing close friendships with my fellow editors. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Ivy League sports were subsequently canceled for the entire 2020 to 2021 academic year, leaving a massive void of content. During this time, it was quite a challenge to muster up new article ideas. But because we had more flexibility and room for original ideas, our section was able to keep sports churning through a variety of articles including features, historical dives and columns. 

I was very fortunate to have one final year of covering the Red alongside three excellent assistant sports editors: Will Bodenman ’23, Liam Monahan ’24 and Aaron Snyder ’23. After our staff experienced a significant contraction in writers during the pandemic, I was able to recruit and build back out staff to ensure we gave proper coverage to Cornell’s 37 varsity sports.  

Now, just a couple of weeks away from graduation, I am filled with gratitude for the numerous people who have helped me on this journey. First of all, I’d like to thank all of the people who served on the editorial board with me. Out of all the organizations on campus, I believe The Sun is an institution with some of the most inter-departmental collaboration, and this is very true for sports. Whether it was with photography editors, layout editors or managing editors, my fellow editors’ tireless work ultimately helped us publish a massive output of articles. 

Second, I’d like to thank everybody I’ve worked with in sports. We have always been such a tight-knit section, and my experience started with Raphy and Christina, and then I had the pleasure of working with Emily Dawson ’21 during the pandemic. If it wasn’t for Will, Liam and Aaron, I don’t know how I would have managed coverage. Their help and contributions were invaluable, and I look forward to seeing where Aaron, the current sports editor, takes the paper alongside Ruth Abraham ’24, Gabriella Pacitto ’24 and Grayson Ruhl ’24 at the helm. 

In addition to the many phenomenal people at The Sun, I would also like to thank the hardworking sports information directors at Cornell Athletics, specifically Jeremy Hartigan and Brandon Thomas. Jeremy and Brandon coordinate the coverage of Cornell’s 37 varsity sports with a very small staff, and they served as the liaison between the teams and us — the media. Without them, we would not be able to fill our articles with insightful quotes from players and coaches, and I am truly grateful for all the work that they have done.    

When I look back on my three years on the Hill, my experience at The Sun will be one of my defining memories. I believe that the one defining vote from my freshman-year election at BC set me on a new path. My foray into journalism has given me so much in the form of skills, friendships and ultimately, unforgettable experiences. 

Luke Pichini is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He served as sports editor on the 139th editorial board and assistant sports editor on the 137th and 138th boards. He can be reached at [email protected]