If you don’t know the following figure, you definitely should. In Campus Characters, The Blue and White introduces you to a handful of Columbians who are up to interesting and extraordinary things. If you’d like to suggest a Campus Character, send us an email at email@example.com. From the current issue, on newsstands across campus today, staff writer Matt Schantz, CC ’13, continues our annual tradition of profiling the outgoing Columbia Daily Spectator editor in chief. This time around, meet Sarah Darville, CC ’13.
When I asked her how Sarah Darville, CC ’13 and Spectator editor in chief for the 2012 calendar year, kept sane under the pressure of running Columbia’s daily paper, Maggie Alden, CC ’13 and Sarah’s managing editor, thrust her phone in front of me. “I have a video to show you,” she said. Taylor Swift erupted from the phone’s speaker, accompanied by an image of Sarah jumping up and down on a red sofa in Spec’s office, curly hair exploding with each leap. When the video ends, Maggie laughs. “[Working with Sarah] was one of the most positive experiences I’ve had in my life.” Unpretentious and unrehearsed, Sarah inspires those around her with a (usually) quiet confidence.
“I’ve been a huge journalism nerd since I was a kid,” Sarah admits. Before becoming a voracious reader of grown-up newspapers, Sarah recalls reading Time for Kids. in high school, Sarah served as editor in chief of her school paper and bought a subscription to the Columbia Journalism Review.
Sarah hesitated to join Spectator her freshman year. “I thought I was going to become some new person when I got to Columbia,” she explains. But the feeling only lasted a moment. Sarah joined the paper almost immediately, working briefly in copy-editing before moving on to reporting. After two years covering the Manhattanville expansion and education in Morningside, Sarah was promoted to editor in chief.
Sarah seems embarrassed when I ask her about the difficulties she faced as editor in chief. “[Running Spec] wasn’t torture,” Sarah clarifies. “We were eating pizza and putting together a newspaper at night. [Speccies] aren’t working any harder than any other people with jobs.” But the ease with which Sarah rehearses the hour-by-hour schedule of her days as editor attests to the discipline it took to hold her position. After waking up around noon and battling the 300 to 400 emails she received daily (maybe squeezing in class, time permitting), Sarah’s real day started at 6 p.m. “Anything before 6 o’clock was not real,” at which time Sarah headed to the Spec office, where she attended her duties until the paper was ready to print: 1 a.m. on a good night, 5 a.m. on a bad one.
Among her staff, Sarah is revered for her ability to give respectful criticism. “She has this technique,” Maggie continues, “if she has something harsh to say to someone, she’ll touch them or put her hand on their shoulder to mute it. I don’t think she knows she does it, though.” it stands as a testament to this interpersonal warmth that, when I asked Maggie what she would consider Sarah’s biggest contribution to the paper, instead of naming a particular story, Maggie reflects on the positive energy Sarah brought to the office every day: “[Sarah] was conscious of the way that Spec can be an unwelcoming place, and doing everything she could to change that.”
Sarah decompresses by taking long walks through Morningside Heights. But there is no sharp line between her life at the office, and her life outside. The journalistic impulse comes naturally to Sarah. “I don’t have any ideological agenda about journalism,” Sarah explains. “I do think journalism can do good in the world. I think it can do good at this University.” On one stroll, Sarah heard gospel music pouring out of a dilapidated building. She noted the location and gave it to a fellow Speccie to investigate. Eventually Spec ran a video profiling the youth group that practices there.