The Oberlin Stories Project

On becoming an editor in chief

Nina Paroff ’12

“I’m focusing on what The Grape could be in the future. I love The Grape for what it’s worth. I love the stinky office, the stinky staff, and the paper itself, typos and all.”

Nina works on a omputer. There's a rubber ducky on top of the monitor. A sticker reads 'Trees are bad for pollution.'

I never expected to be editor in chief of The Grape. Then again, I never expected to be an African American studies major, pre-med, a Hip Hop 101 organizer, or an OSCA devotee. I was supposed to be a theater major and spend all my free time mastering Spanish. Whoops. I should have known to expect the unexpected from Oberlin.

During my freshman orientation, I picked up a copy of The Grape, Oberlin’s “alternative” school newspaper. At that moment, my personal sense of funny was in high gear, as I was throwing my humor around, desperately trying to make friends. The Grape made me laugh and piqued my interest. When I decided I would write for it, I didn’t know a single thing about journalism. Even still, my first article was decently written, if entirely irrelevant, and included the word blogtard, which I think I may have coined.

Two years later, I’ve learned how valuable student publications are to Oberlin life. What I lack in journalistic chops, I make up for with effort and care. Sometimes, caring about The Grape means taking risks for the team, expressing an opinion that people may not want to hear, writing the fifth article for the “Bad Habits” section of the semester, or asking an interviewee a question they don’t want to answer. Other times, care means giving a fellow editor a back rub because I’m useless with InDesign. I came for the funny, but I stayed for the valuable access to a medium that really reaches and resonates with the Oberlin community.

The Grape occupies different niches from year to year, and even issue to issue. But even as interests and staff change, The Grape is always there. Every other week, there is a group of editors and 24 to 32 blank pages of newsprint, waiting to be filled by absolutely any student with an ambition to share. Whether students realize it or not, the pages of The Grape (like so much on this campus) belongs to them. That’s a beautiful thing.

And while I will gladly participate in the friendly rivalry between The Grape and The Oberlin Review, I love every publication at Oberlin–blogs, zines, papers, rags, and scribbled-on pieces of toilet paper. There’s room for as many publications here as there are sets of eyes to read. I respect them; I appreciate them; I read them, and with this community of editors, I feel a certain camaraderie over the frustrations of deadlines, print quality, or flaky writers.

As the new editor in chief, I’m forgetting about what The Grape has been expected to be in the past and focusing on what it could be in the future. I’m excited about it–it’s hard to restrain myself from sharing all of my grapey hopes and dreams. I love The Grape for what it’s worth. I love the stinky office, the stinky staff, and the paper itself, typos and all. I love that I didn’t mean to love it, that it grew on me while I was focusing on other things. My relationship with The Grape reflects my entire Oberlin experience: surprising, exciting, inspiring, enriching, and so funny.