Editor to overthink headline for last published piece

Carter Uslabar, Editor in Chief

This is all Jack Tierney’s fault—I just wanted to do more cartoons.

For two years I did editorial cartoons (of highly variable quality) for The Advance-Titan’s staff editorials. Toward the end of my sophomore year I noticed a weekly cartoon in the A&E section was conspicuously absent. I sent an email, which was forwarded to Jack, who shortly thereafter dumped the Arts & Entertainment editor role on me. Thankfully.

Heidi Docter / Advance-Titan
Carter Uslabar drew cartoons for The Advance-Titan’s staff editorials for two years before becoming the Arts & Entertainment editor. He became the Editor-in-Chief in spring 2020 and remained in that position through spring 2021.

My first night in the newsroom was everything I could have hoped for. It was a fascinating learning experience, and it gave me a great deal of confidence as I continued to gain and improve my skills. Outgoing editors like Calvin Skalet and Christina Basken let my creativity run wild, Jack helped familiarize me with InDesign and Joe Schulz taught me how to write a news piece.

From that point, things only got better. The A-T and the A&E section became a place where I could put all my creative skills into practice, and—at the risk using a word whose meaning has been diluted by familiarity—find some kind of fulfillment in my work.

It’s easy for me to recognize where the immense sense of gratification the A-T gives me comes from. It comes from the ability to reach out to a person or group, speak to them, synthesize their story into a written account, give it visual representation and present it all in a well-designed page. And then pick it off a news rack. Being a part of the A-T has given me and my many friends here something special that few other students have—the ability to hold up a physical object and say, ‘I made this.’

And what’s more, I made it along with my friends. The bonds I made with friends at The Advance-Titan are the strongest and most meaningful I’ve made during my time at UW Oshkosh. The creative energy that flowed between Jack, Leo Costello, and myself was verily a cut above. The only regret I have is that they graduated a year and a half before me.

Joe Schulz’s almost-manic passion for journalism and Sophia Voight’s prolific reporting pushed me to write better, and Heidi Docter and Owen Peterson made me laugh each week—things that were, without making hyperbole of it, the only thing I looked forward to each week.

After that first semester being A&E editor, and with the gaping holes in our newspaper’s leadership roles after Jack, Leo and former Copy Chief Cody Wiesner’s graduations, I found myself elected to the top dog position of Editor-in-Chief. It was an exciting time for myself and for the rest of the staff: we had an astounding amount of momentum built up; our coverage and planning was superb, and our design was getting better and better. We’d just won first place at the Associated Collegiate Press’ Best of the Midwest convention. It seemed like nothing could stop us.

But you know what happens next. It’s a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme, college newspapers and disease.

The truth of the matter is that the A-T’s newsroom, in the downright creepy, blue linoleum-tiled hallway behind Titan Underground, is a synecdoche of small-town journalism today: it is dying, COVID-19 or not. But the people who are behind it are pushing—sometimes trudging—forward despite this. Despite our staff being decimated by COVID-19 and a shoestring budget, we published 28 papers in a school year when we weren’t even sure we’d be in person. We thought we’d all be packing our bags by week three of fall 2020. We didn’t hire a distribution manager, so I ended up delivering papers to the kiosks all across campus while Barb Benish delivered to our community locations.

Of course, I can’t go further without thanking Barb. Barb is the unflagging backbone of the Advance-Titan. Without her, there is no paper. Whether she was coordinating and entering our staff’s work into competitions, finding resources, securing advertisements or sending literal hundreds of emails to our staff, it seemed like Barb was always working on the A-T. Rumor has it she doesn’t need sleep. But she has done much more, too; she’s provided direction when we were directionless, helped our staff with their resumes and done so much to train new writers. I am deeply indebted to Barb for the countless opportunities she’s made possible for myself and my fellow editors.

This paper shall be my last. Come fall, Cory Sparks will be leading the paper. He’s shown a great ability to learn, to design pages and to write. He produced page after page of sports content during the pandemic when there was—you guessed it—next to no sports to cover, creating content out of nothing like Fritz Haber produced ‘bread from air.’ It’s a bittersweet feeling to know the next time I see the Advance-Titan, my name will be absent from the masthead, but I’m drenched in gratitude for my experience with the publication.
Now prepare yourself for a slew of letters to the editor…