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Our newest staff writer Nicole Zelniker took a crack at the Heavy Rebel Weekender story for this issue. The Weekender, even in its most recent, diluted incarnation, is something to behold for a young reporter, bringing to mind the old newsroom saw: There are no new stories, only new reporters.

I think I filed my first HRW piece for Triad Style or ESP around 2001. But it might have been In the Spotlight in 2003. Or maybe it was for Yes! Weekly in 2005. Whichever: Hers is better than any of the ones I filed, I think.

Zelniker’s a seasoned writer, a published novelist with an Ivy League journalism degree and a bachelor’s from Guilford College, which checks off a lot of boxes around here. And she’s the first hire for Sayaka Matsuoka’s newsroom. The paper bears the imprint of our new(ish) managing editor more and more each week.

As it happens, my own role shifts from active newsroom participant — though I am indeed that — to coach, mentor, custodian of the arcane knowledge and standards of our profession. Now it’s me spitting out the old saws.

Always do the math.

Your mama says she loves you? Better check it out.

More reporting is needed.

Here’s how it happens: Once you break into this industry — no small feat there — you put your head down and get to work. You kind of know you’re not good yet, or you quickly realize it, so there’s nothing to do but get better, try harder, kill your bad habits and mercilessly dissect your work.

You don’t even notice when the imposter’s syndrome disappears, usually after a few hundred pieces or a decade or so of regular newsroom work. And if you’ve walked the true path long enough, you have the tools and experience to ascertain the right thing to do.

Things are changing in journalism, but there are longstanding tenets that, even in this time of uncertainty, give us a path toward the light.

And it is still so exciting. Still so fulfilling. Still so honorable. If we’re doing it right.

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