On Deadlines, Glee and Controversy: Meet Michelle Monroe, Editor of "The Wildcat"

“Here at the Wildcat, no one can tell us what we can or cannot publish, or can and cannot print—or think," Monroe says. “It’s truly a student voice. And when someone calls and says, ‘You can’t print that,’ I always say, ‘We’re protected by the Constitution. First Amendment!’”
May 17, 2011

The Arizona Daily Wildcat distributes 10,000 copies a day on campus, every day that school is in session. It’s a million-dollar business operated on campus, but the Wildcat is not owned by the University of Arizona or the Arizona Student Union Association (ASUA), which makes it a rarity in college journalism. At a recent conference of college journalists held in Hollywood, California, junior Michelle Monroe—the editor-in-chief of the Wildcat—learned that many university newspapers are operated out of journalism programs as one-semester courses.

“Here at the Wildcat, no one can tell us what we can or cannot publish, or can and cannot print—or think,’ she says. “It’s truly a student voice. And when someone calls and says, ‘You can’t print that,’ I always say, ‘We’re protected by the Constitution. First Amendment!’ ”

When it comes to controversial topics, Monroe doesn’t hesitate to run the story. She’s inspired by the photographs lining the hallway of the Wildcat offices of journalists around the world who are in captivity or who were killed on the job this year.

“It’s a daily reminder of why you’re not just a student journalist on campus,” says Monroe. “You’re here because you want to defend free speech. Because you want to defend democracy. Because you want to seek out the truth and report it.”

Monroe is driven by a sense of mission, and also by a sense of fun. The majority of every day is spent in the newsroom, debating and laughing with her colleagues, running meetings and taking breaks every Tuesday night to watch Glee on the newsroom’s old television set. “We’re huge ‘Gleeks’ here,” she admits.

It takes a tremendous commitment to be editor-in-chief. Monroe works from 8 in the morning until 5 at night, taking off an hour here and there to go to class. After she leaves at 5 p.m. and her managing editor, Ken Contrata, takes over, she eats dinner and does homework and then goes to her second job as a residence hall desk assistant. She returns to the newsroom at 10 p.m. to look over final copy, and is the one who delivers the issue to the printer by midnight.

“Sunday through Thursday, my life is devoted to the Wildcat,” she says. “It has to be that way. But I try to have a social life on Fridays and Saturdays.”

As she moves on to other opportunities, next semester will continue be busy for Monroe. "In the fall I will be a New York Times intern reporting on Southern Arizona, and a NASA Space Grant intern working for the business desk writing about science and technology at the Arizona Daily Star," she says. "One of my best friends, Nicole Dimtsios, a journalism senior, will be the new editor-in-chief. She's going to do an incredible job!"

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