Letter from the editor: Good night Oakland Post, I’ll see you in my dreams


Sophie Hume

Editor-in-Chief of Volume 47 of The Oakland Post Jeff Thomas.

Jeff Thomas, Editor-in-Chief

This week we publish the last issue of Volume 47 of The Oakland Post. It’s our last issue of the winter semester, the last issue that this wonderful group of students will get to publish together and the last issue that I’ll produce as Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of The Oakland Post. 

I’m here with this letter to express some deeply-felt gratitude and acknowledge the people that helped me and The Post along our way this year, and to share my thoughts about what has been an incredible year for our small independent student newspaper. 

I’m starting this letter with the acknowledgements. So please — dear readers, peers, co-workers, accomplices and friends — indulge me this one last time so I can finally lay this EIC business to rest. If you don’t care to read these, skip to the next text that isn’t italicized.

To our readers — thank you for sticking with us this year. The tremendous outpouring of support we received from the campus community made all the difference. You all played a part in taking The Post to new heights in engagement throughout Volume 47 and we are thankful. Serving you people has been one of the great joys of my life.

To our Content Editor Lauren Reid — thank you for giving so much of yourself to this campus community. Incredibly, you simultaneously served as the President of PRSSA and the Content Editor of The Post during the most successful year that either organization has had. You’re an absolute rockstar. I am in awe of you. We couldn’t have done it this year without your leadership skills and organizational expertise. You will always have my gratitude. Every person in this organization is better off for having worked with you. 

To our Managing Editor Bridget Janis — thank you for always sticking with me and The Post. During the dog days of the fall and winter semester, you never failed in lifting the staff’s spirits with your infectious energy and sense of humor. You used your talents to set new standards for our page design and to write the best articles of your long Post career. You used your tremendous leadership instincts to inspire your peers. You will always have my gratitude. Every person in this organization is better off for having worked with you.

To Garry and Holly Gilbert — thank you for your guidance as professors and your support of The Post’s staff. My time as your student refined my views on journalism and skills as a writer. Holly, your features writing course handed fire to this caveman — it brought me out of the cold. Garry, your ethics courses taught me that facts and objectivity come first. I hope one day I can be fortunate enough to use my success to help other people the way that you two do.

To The Post’s Business Adviser Don Ritenburgh — thank you for helping me with the finances and making upgrades to our office. Your administrative knowledge is second to none and your dedication to OU’s students is an inspiration. You are a credit to the professional staff at this university. I’m fortunate to have gotten to work with you. I will miss being able to tell people that I have a business adviser.

To our Features Editor Sarah Gudenau — thank you for always going above and beyond the call of duty. The work you did mentoring your reporters this year was exceptional. The legacy you’re leaving at The Post is one of hard work, quality reporting, kindness and collaboration. Features produced many of our best-written articles this year. I am proud to have witnessed your journey in our organization. You will always have my gratitude.

To our Sports Editor Matthew Scheidel — thank you for making our sports coverage top notch this year. Under your leadership, The Post’s sports section became the authoritative news source on coverage of OU athletics. You are a diligent editor, dedicated to the craft of sports journalism. It was a pleasure witnessing you do the work that you love to do. You will always have my gratitude.

To the rest of my staff — I’ll miss you. You have raised me up with your hard work and dedication much the same way that you have elevated yourselves. I couldn’t be more proud. Be well and keep fighting the good fight for this campus community. Remember that we’re journalists because we care about other people. Let that compassion and humility continue to guide your work.

To my predecessors Michael Pearce and Emily Morris — thanks for believing in me as an editor. Thanks for the friendship and support. You’re the only two bosses I ever had at The Post, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

To my successor Gabrielle Abdelmessih — believe in yourself and never underestimate what you give to other people by believing in them. Your time as EIC will be what you make it. I know you’ll do your best. Be sure to keep your eyes open next year, you won’t want to miss a thing.

To Peter Markus — I have said plenty of odd things to you over the past couple years, naturally it’s made all the difference. Thank you for extending a hand when I needed something to grab onto. Your workshops changed my life. Thank you for believing in me. I am grateful to have experienced your passion, generosity and levity.

To Annie Gilson — your friendship and support has been a blessing this year. Thank you for believing in me. Your relentless advocacy for your students has been an inspiration to witness firsthand. You’re a force of nature, the magic runs deep inside you. I will always cherish the time I spent this year learning the craft of writing fiction with you.

To Alison Powell — thank you for helping me refine my voice. It is remarkable to me how much my perception of writing has been deepened by studying with you. I understand myself more and I understand the things that I need to say because of you. Thank you for believing in me. I will always cherish our time together at OU.

To Brian Bierley — thank you for the help with sourcing. Many of our best stories exist because of the work you do behind the scenes. Despite often being put in a difficult position, you always treated me and my staff with kindness and respect. We appreciated it.

To the Oakland Center’s staff — thank you for being such gracious hosts. From the custodians, to the administrative professionals, to the students running the tech center — me and my staff were well taken care of because of you. We appreciated it.

To Tiffany Mason (Esshaki) — thank you for believing in me. Your friendship and perspective made this journey easier. All the laughs were pretty great too.

To my best friend and the greatest custodian in the history of Oakland Community College Randy Blitchok — love you brother man. Thanks always for being you and taking it to the streets in the way that only you can. You lift me up.

To my mother Kari Thomas — thank you for always being a beacon of integrity in my life. I wouldn’t be a journalist today without the values that you instilled in me. I know you always did your best for our family. I love you.

To my sister Lindsey Quinn — thank you for always setting the example of what’s possible if I work hard and do the right thing. You’re the best person that I know, I couldn’t have asked for a better older sister. I love you.

To my grandparents Dick and Willa Jean Wisniewski — I love you. Thanks for providing stability and a place for me to live during all the craziness of the past couple years. Thanks for being two of our most dedicated readers. It was a joy bringing you a copy of The Post every Wednesday. I worked hard to make you proud.

To my brothers Jake and TJ Thomas — for some reason the thought of your stupid faces motivates me. I love you jabronis. I’m quite sure being your older brother is the most important thing I’ve done in my life.

To my father Jeff Thomas — his name is my name too. Thank you for exposing me to some of the most exhausting work possible at such a young age. If I can compare everything I do the rest of my life to the July mornings I spent grouting solid a 12-inch block wall on the east side of Davison High School, I’ll be alright. I love you.

To my big cousin Eddie Colby — thank you for showing me what we give to other people when we’re brave enough to share ourselves. I love you always.

Everyday is a good day when you’re editor-in-chief of The Oakland Post. It was a thrill and a privilege to lead this incredible group of OU students for the past year. Together we exceeded every expectation, we always answered the call for this campus community.

Working with such a talented group, often the best thing I could do was get the hell out of their way. I gave people the space they needed to be themselves and the support to succeed in doing work that mattered to them. 

In return I received the gift of getting to watch these outstanding individuals grow personally and thrive in their professional roles with The Post, and the campus community received 30 exceptional issues of top-notch student journalism. Our work this year mattered because we busted our asses and made it matter.

In my time as EIC, we published over 600 articles and more than 80 letters to the editor. Journalism, facts and truth telling were at the heart of everything we did in Volume 47. We never once compromised our belief in those three things. We centered the people that make up this campus community, we gave them a voice and asked the questions that they wanted answered.

The result was elevated discourse around key issues facing the campus community. We managed to move leaders at the highest levels of this university toward transparency and accountability to the people that they are supposed to be serving.

This approach took The Post to unprecedented levels of readership and online engagement. I am happy to report that, by the end of the winter semester, The Post will have exceeded 430,000 page views on our website since I took over as EIC. This is more than double our previous yearly average for page views. 

All of this success after COVID-19 devastated our organization. Last year under Michael Pearce and Emily Morris’ leadership we kept the lights on and did our best to turn out meaningful weekly issues. This year our staff pulled together and kicked the door open to a whole new world of possibilities for our independent student newspaper. Ladies and gentlemen, the organizational rebuild is complete, our newsroom is back and healthier than it’s ever been. 

My journey with The Post started back in August 2020. I was unemployed, broke and getting worked over by our wonderful unemployment agency. I remember sitting on the couch with my brother TJ, laughing heartily when I received the email from Michael offering me a job as an editor. It seemed like the strangest turn of events. Things got stranger.

In April 2021, after eight months of being a section editor, I was selected to be the next EIC by a board of accomplished academics, journalists and public relations professionals. Naturally, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Me and my staff got thrown into the deep end early and often, but we always responded. We never got complacent. 

From the first issue I put out last May, to our final issue this week, we pushed ourselves to do our best work. We went from 16 page issues, to 20 pages, to 24 pages and finally to a 28 page issue that was published April 6, 2022.

We did this not only to prove ourselves, but to make this university that we love a better place for this campus community. This staff is not a group of self-interested resume builders, we all sacrificed this year because we wanted to make this university better not just for us while we were here, but for future generations of OU students.

The progress that we made with our content, design, marketing, advertising and distribution was possible because I was surrounded by motivated people. People that I knew I could give responsibility to, and that I trusted to get the job done. The work they did during Volume 47 not only made my life easier, it set the organization up to be successful going forward.

Frankly, it’s a miracle that I ever arrived here in this moment as EIC. The Sail Board that oversees The Post deserves a ton of credit for not holding it against me that I’m a nontraditional student who cusses a lot and had to spend years bouncing around in various odds and ends jobs before I started to really figure my life out.

Instead of judging me because I wasn’t a presidential scholar, they listened to what I had to say and gave me an opportunity to be more than my background may have suggested I would be. They supported and believed in me when many people wouldn’t have. I am grateful for that.

I am thankful that over 100 of my articles will stay forever in The Post’s archives alongside the work of so many other excellent student journalists who have attended OU since this newspaper first started over 60 years ago.

I was happy to uphold high standards and make my own contributions to the history of this storied organization. There’ve been so many incredible people that have been associated with The Post over the years and that legacy matters.

Though I never had the opportunity to meet and learn from her, it meant a lot to me that the legendary Jane Briggs-Bunting came up as often as she did this year. It is my understanding that I probably would have had to say the f-word a lot less with her around, but for her I think I could have managed that.

If there’s one thing that’s become painfully evident during my time as EIC, it’s just how badly our campus community needs this newspaper. This whole year at OU has been a case study in just how important local journalism is. People have to know that someone who cares is looking out for their best interests, and that’s exactly what The Post is here for.

I challenge any students reading this to answer the call. There’s a ton of opportunities working at The Post. Our organization takes people from all different majors and walks of life. If you’ve got the right talents, then this is the organization to be in if you want to make a difference at OU.

It’s hard to put into words what I would have missed had I not taken a chance on myself with this job. Being a leader at The Post throughout this awful pandemic has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. I have been touched by a million small, beautiful moments.

Our highest service in life is to other people. To have touched one person’s life is a hell of an accomplishment and I was fortunate as EIC to have my work touch the lives of many people. 

During this god-awful pandemic, the worst couple years that we’ve seen in our lifetimes, the work that we did at The Post helped people. It made them feel better. I am very proud of that. I cannot thank you all enough for the new happiness that I feel in my life.

Well, here we are at the end. One paragraph for a lifetime. Of course, there are hardly any words left. It’s been one year of my life, being EIC is the best job that I’ve ever had. I gave my heart, my soul and a fair bit of my hairline to this newspaper. In return, The Post filled me up. It’s over and I’m sure I’ll feel sort of empty for a while. I don’t know what I’ll do next, but I don’t worry about it too much. There’s always more in life. And I’ve got no regrets. I gave my all to you people. I did my best.

Love always,

Jeff Thomas

Editor-in-Chief, Volume 47, The Oakland Post