Letter from the Editor Opinion

Transitions: The Cougar bids farewell to departing members, hello to new leadership

2023 (left) vs. 2024 (right). Something about student journalism just puts a smile on my face. | Anh Le/The Cougar

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time as a student journalist, it’s that you never really get comfortable.

As a staff writer, by the time you’ve really nailed down your beat you’re already well on your way to becoming a section editor. As an editor, by the time you’ve figured out how to run your section effectively, you’re already on the short list for an executive position. 

Further compounding this is the sense of genuine responsibility any journalist feels toward their community and the stories they’ve been entrusted with telling and preserving. This feeling, at times, can be suffocating — like you’re never really able to process your accomplishments because you don’t have a spare second to catch your breath. 

But it’s a feeling I wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world. 

Sitting here now, in one of just a handful of remaining days as editor in chief, I am left with an overwhelming sense of pride in having been a part of The Cougar. Every missed class spent meeting with sources, every long night in the office and every smile, laugh and tear I shared with my fellow reporters along the way  — all now part of a beautiful mental tapestry I will cherish forever. 

When I started here in the spring of 2022, I had one thing to my name: an idea. I knew I wanted to become a writer, but at the ripe old age of 24, had little to show for it. Two years later, I have close to 100 bylines under my belt and what I would consider to be a decent start for a fledgling journalist. I owe it all to The Cougar. 

Later that same year, when I took over as news editor, I was an estranged commuter student whose campus experience was defined entirely by my class schedule. Now, I have a network of friends and colleagues — many of whom I know I will continue to speak with long past graduation. This too, I owe to The Cougar. 

When I was selected to be editor in chief in May of 2023, I was grappling with the death of my father, who was and still is one of my main sources of inspiration as a journalist. The Cougar offered not only a distraction from the despair I felt at the time, but one where I felt I was honoring his memory through my work. I owe that to The Cougar. 

Now, as my time here comes to an end, I realize I was never suffocating, never drowning — I was swimming. I didn’t know where or why, but now that I’m here it’s like I’m where I was always supposed to be, doing what I was made to do. This is perhaps the greatest gift I’ve received from The Cougar — a sense of meaning and purpose in the world. 

This debt, no matter where life takes me, is one I will never forget. No matter if I end up at the New York Times or some struggling local paper in rural Texas, I will always remember the place where it all began. 

For the greater UH community, all I am currently able to offer you in repayment is my successor. There is not a single person on this campus more qualified for the role than her, and I have no doubt in my mind that she will exceed the standards of those who came before her.

Onwards and upwards, Coogs, and until we meet again. 

John Lomax V, outgoing editor in chief

2023 (left) vs. 2024 (right). Cindy Rivas Alfaro will take over as editor in chief May 1.

I have spent an alarming amount of time wondering how I would start this letter so I’ll start from the beginning. 

I entered the staff room in the Fall of 2021 with practically no knowledge of journalism unless you count that one elective class I took my last semester in high school. I was clueless, did not know a hint of AP style and could not seem to shake off my habit of writing like a wannabe Shakespeare. 

It was horrendous if I’m being honest, but I knew that I wanted to do something when I joined the Cougar: I wanted to make people feel heard and reassure them that their stories do matter, even when the world says they don’t. 

I have laughed and learned in my three years at The Cougar as an opinion writer, opinion editor and most recently, the managing editor. As the eldest daughter of Salvadoran immigrants who used to rely on my mom to get me to campus during my first year of college, I struggled a lot to find my place at UH. 

Before officially joining the editorial board, I would spend hours sitting alone in the Student Center South or the library. I would feel upset watching all of my dormer friends eating waffles at Moody at ungodly hours while I was stuck at home. I felt like I was robbed of my college experience. 

However, joining the editorial board in May of 2022 changed everything for me. I finally had a support group, a safe space. It wasn’t just a place where I would go work and go straight home. Instead of sitting alone waiting for my mom to pick me up, I was at the office, laughing, crying, smiling, going through it and then not going through it. 

As I’m writing this letter, I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of leading the Volume 90 newsroom into the start of another decade of its life. The Cougar has done so much for me professionally, academically and personally. Sometimes I get intense bursts of imposter syndrome as I’m sure every editor-in-chief before me has felt. 

But if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that I will put my mind, heart and soul into The Cougar. There is nothing I want more than to make sure The Cougar is what it was made to do: to inform the student body while documenting the history of our University. 

Many people say journalism is a dying field. If that were true, then my heart, John’s heart, Donna’s heart, Jhair’s heart and the heart of every other editor-in-chief before us would have stopped beating a long time ago. 

The state of the matter is that journalism is alive because we keep it alive. Journalism is not just the news. It’s the old, crinkled-up newspapers you find locked away in your family’s basement or the scanned files buried on JSTOR to learn more about something that happened long before you were alive. 

Journalism is essential to our history and our democracy and I can assure you, the students of UH, that I will keep it alive.

Cindy Rivas Alfaro, incoming editor in chief

[email protected]

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