“Hold the elevator!”
It’s Sept. 7, 2018 in Provo, Utah. For the first time as a reporter, I’m traveling with the Cal football team. After an evening stroll through the BYU campus, I enter the Provo Marriott Hotel, where we’re spending the night. As I walk into the elevator, a voice calls out, and in trots head coach Justin Wilcox.
Before I know it, it’s just the two of us riding up together — him presumably heading to the penthouse, and I to the room that I’m sharing with the team’s social media coordinator on the fourth floor.
While I’ve interviewed Wilcox in a couple of post-practice settings prior to this moment, it’s the first time we’re together in a nonwork setting.
I manage to ask, “How’s it going, coach?”
Stoic and focused by the look of his firm jaw, he says he’s doing well, confirms my name and asks me about my background. I explain that I’m a reporter for The Daily Californian, and as the son of Cal football-loving parents, this opportunity is a dream come true for 20-year-old me.
Our brief chat ends abruptly, but not before Wilcox asks me one final thing.
“So, are you a journalism major?”
It’s an all-too-familiar question that I’ve gotten from relatives, old co-workers and even close friends at different schools. After being a high school managing editor and joining the Daily Cal just weeks into my freshman year, I don’t blame folks for pegging me as a future journalist.
In reality, I’m a math major with a public policy minor — subjects that have no relation to my involvement as a student journalist.
While half of my undergraduate years involved regular trips to my favorite place on campus — the Daily Cal office — the other half consisted of late nights in Main Stacks (arguably my least favorite) cramming for my math courses and calling my parents while walking home on the verge of tears from stress.
Through trial, error and so much support, I somehow survived my classroom struggles. But while the math community (memes, 40% midterm scores, Professor Alexander Paulin) played a pivotal part in my UC Berkeley experience, joining the Daily Cal defined it.
I fell in love with interviewing student-athletes, getting pizza with fellow reporters and, of course, seeing my byline in print. As math courses increased in rigor and pushed my bedtime later and later, the Daily Cal became my equalizer.
After sophomore year, I ramped up my workload and became the fall sports editor. From writing Chase Garbers’ feature to the wild game in Provo that followed my conversation with Coach Wilcox to coaching a flag football team despite having zero playing experience, I was living my best life.
With my parents encouraging me to branch out after that eventful, albeit exhausting, semester, I took a break. But it wasn’t long before I began to miss the place and people that allowed me to be myself — journalism major or not.
So I came back. I covered football again, and this semester I served as the editor in chief of this storied organization. And while the coronavirus pandemic largely encompassed my tenure as EIC and forced me to grow up in a matter of weeks, I was blessed with an amazing team.
Per sports department tradition, it’s time for a long list of thank-you’s.
The first goes to my first editors — Hooman, Chris and Austin. Thank you for accepting me, getting my sports writing off the ground and setting an example for my generation.
To other former mentors — Michelle, Ritchie, Devang, Vikram, just to name a few — thank you for your encouragement at meetings and socializing with me at the first events I attended.
To Maya and Nikhil — thank you for being my first friends at the Daily Cal. Even though you ditched me for greener pastures after freshman year, sports bros are for life.
To Andrew and Sophie — thank you for challenging me, continuing in the footsteps of your predecessors and giving me confidence to lead the department.
To Justice and Christie — thank you for making a full-time job so light, fun and enjoyable. This experience would not have been the same without you two.
To fellow sports staffers and folks I hired — Alison, Shailin, Surina, Jasper, Joey, Jack, Emily, just to name a handful — thanks for being great flag football players but even better people. You’ve taught me more than I’ve taught you about ledes, titles and punctuating stories with the perfect quote.
To Luz — thank you for being the voice I could lean on when I needed someone to laugh with and confide in.
To Sakura and Kaitlan — you have become the ambassadors of this paper. You’ve given me the opportunity to lead, knowing that no matter what happens, I have two lifelong companions and a decade’s worth of inside jokes to lean on when the going gets tough.
Finally, to Karen — thank you for being my best friend and the person who defined my entire college experience more than any story, class or assignment ever could. You brighten all of my days, and I can’t thank this organization (and Cal football) enough for bringing us together. I love you.
I initially envisioned the end of this incredible journey resembling that of “Star Wars: Episode VI,” with the rebels and Ewoks dancing into the night on Endor. As a senior graduating in 2020, that type of ending is not my reality. But while a glance at my diploma or LinkedIn profile may indicate that I spent four years immersed in mathematics and public policy, reality blessed me with so much more.
Josh Yuen was the spring 2020 editor in chief and president. He joined The Daily Californian in fall 2016 as a sports reporter and was a softball beat reporter in spring 2017, women’s tennis beat reporter in fall 2017 and spring 2018, women’s basketball beat reporter in winter 2017-18 and football beat reporter in fall 2018 and fall 2019. He served as an assistant sports editor in spring 2018, sports editor in fall 2018 and editorial hiring manager in fall 2019. He is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a minor in public policy.