News Editor Emma Derr signs off

“Through my time with the Phi, I experienced a sense of true community with incredible people.”


Emma Derr, ’20.

Emma Derr

Over the past four years, I have watched the Ring-tum Phi change into the flourishing, accurate and multifaceted new organization that it is today. Quarantine has given me the time and space to process this change and reflect on how much I’ve changed, as well.

I started as a staff writer for the Opinions section, writing about issues I was passionate about, such as poverty alleviation and public policy. Some of my favorite pieces of writing have spanned from local issues, such as a woman in the county who lost her home to a fire around the same time as Windfall burned down, to national issues, such as Trump’s travel ban. I was asked to be the Arts & Life section editor my sophomore year and was lucky enough to work alongside Hannah Denham. We worked with collaboration and confidence, and as I transitioned last year into a new role as News editor and Hannah into hers as Co-Editor in Chief, I could feel something shift.

The first meeting we had my senior year, we had so many people show up that we didn’t have enough seats. We didn’t struggle to assign stories anymore. We worked better on deadline. Subscriptions were up. I could tell the quality of the paper was increasing. It wasn’t like there weren’t mistakes, because there were – but I tried to learn as much as I could from each mistake I made. I learned that good things take time. Always have a plan B (and C). Give just as much positive feedback as criticism.

I would always hear people say that no one reads the Phi. First, this is simply not true, and second, this statement places inherent value on clicks and exposure. I have watched the Phi focus more and more on producing high-quality content, which I believe we have achieved regardless of how many people read it.

This year, all of our writers, editors and leaders went above and beyond to produce a paper I am so proud to be a part of. The positive feedback we received from professors and students was incredibly rewarding, especially given the current attitude toward media in our country.

Through my time with the Phi, I experienced a sense of true community with incredible people—people who care deeply about Washington and Lee and the state of the world. I enjoyed every meeting and every hour spent in the Phi office. Covering Mock Con and COVID-19 was a kind of excitement I had never experienced. It was so fun because it mattered. And it was so nice to be surrounded by people who cared so deeply about things that matter.

I think I’ve changed a lot over the past four years — so has the whole world. It is sometimes frightening to think that change is a constant in our lives, sometimes the only thing we can truly count on. I am so thankful for everything I have gained from Washington and Lee and all of the people I have the privilege to know.

I hope as we all continue to process change, we will continue to advocate for the change we wish to see in the world alongside the people we want to spend it with. That’s what the Ring-tum Phi did for me.