The Sometimes Daily Journal

The Writings of J. R. Stemple

Category: Features


My mother emerged from her room in tears. It was about 6 a.m., just before school. My little sister and I were going about our morning routines when the weight of the world came crashing down.

“Scott… he killed himself last night,” she said. My little sister Tara wept. I went about my routine as if I hadn’t heard the words. I hadn’t spoken to Scott in a number of years; he was in college at the time. An old family friend—the son of my mother’s best friend. The guy who showed me how to play Donkey Kong on his N64. The guy my older sister had always been in love with. The guy who always made everyone laugh.

“He hung himself. His roommate found him…” my mother said, trailing off through her tears. I didn’t know what to say. “I knew he had suffered from depression, I just…” My mother was trying to explain a death to us like we were children. I didn’t blame her though.

I drove my sister to school in silence. We walked into the school in silence. Everyone stared at us in silence. My father was the principal of our high school and Scott’s mother was one of the assistant principals. her office was down the hall from my father’s—it was dark and empty. Everyone knew.

“Are you okay?” asked everyone who locked eyes with me.

“Yes” I’d say just to get them to walk away. I wasn’t even sure. My father pulled me out of class around 2nd block and put me in a counselling office.

“Are you okay?” he asked. Oh no, not him too.

“Yes,” I said.

“Do you need to go home?”


“Okay,” he said. He never lets me go home early, not even when I’m sick. “Get your little sister and go home.” He gave me money to buy us lunch. The entirety of the counselling staff was waiting outside the door as if they were all planning to hug me as I burst into tears. I walked past them all and left.

I felt thankful to be let go from the day. Not because I was grieving, but to get away from all the people who wouldn’t leave me the hell alone. It was all because they cared, I know, but at one point one has to realize when a close family friend commits suicide, I’m not going to be okay that very same day.

“Tara,” I said on the ride home, “how many people asked if you were okay?”

“Everyone. I got really annoyed,” she said. I was glad I wasn’t alone.

We got Chic-fil-a breakfast and headed back home to de-stress. I put on a movie we hadn’t seen and we watched it together. The cloudy gray light fell onto the TV. My eyes grew bloodshot from forgetting to blink.

I wasn’t sure if I was in shock or if I didn’t care. That thought made me sick. And so did social media. Twitter was filled with false claims of knowing Scott; people who sent their prayers to him. I imagined my peers typing on their phones in wild succession after discovering the news of Scott’s death,  “look at such a good person I am!” and “I know this is a tragedy but don’t forget about me too!”

Fuck you, I thought, for capitalizing on the death of a young man for retweets.

I propped up from my Gollum stance over my phone when I heard my sister crying again. I consoled her the best I could. There’s something entirely scary about not having any power to make things better, that something could’ve been done before. But the damage was done. The permanent solution to a temporary problem.

The rest of the day seemed to flow the same. My mom came home and made dinner. We ate, ignoring the elephant in the room. I asked how Scott’s mom was doing—my mother visited her earlier that day.

“Her eyes were dead. She looked like a zombie,” she said. I didn’t blink. I wasn’t surprised.

The day finally came to end where it started: the darkness of the night. The dams of my emotions burst free in finality. I wept alone. I fell asleep.

The Fourth Estate

A feature on GMU’s school newspaper written for a journalism class

A George Mason Publication

A typical day in the shoes of a George Mason University student involves walking between classes and visiting the various eating establishments that dot the campus. One must stay focused on their schoolwork; after all, it is paid for.

But students might not notice—through their bloodshot eyes heavy with exhaustion—the small newspaper kiosks located throughout campus that hold Mason’s student newspaper: Fourth Estate.

Fourth Estate is George Mason University’s student-run weekly newspaper, covering all aspects of college life, such as campus news, the culture surrounding the campus like restaurants and events, and of course, sports.

The paper dates back to 1963, where it was created as the print newspaper The Gunston Ledger, then transitioning in 1969 as the Broadside. The publication stuck until it couldn’t withstand the digital age, and merged with the campus online publication in 2013 to form the Fourth Estate.

The merge between the print and online publications has been a productive move; the paper puts out about 4,000 print copies across campus, as well as online publications, which usually draw a few hundred hits per article. The kind of content covered by the staff varies and is largely up to the editorial staff to decide what is written.

Mackenzie Reagan, Co-Editor-in-Chief of Fourth Estate, in an email interview said, “If it doesn’t have a strong connection to Mason (news or sports), or it isn’t, like, fun? (culture), we typically don’t cover it.”

Sometimes it’s hard to cover everything going on around campus; staff writers are volunteer positions which are few and far between already—many editors have to take up writing responsibilities along with the editorial duties to make up for slow weeks.

“Sometimes, things just fall through the cracks because we don’t have enough writers,” said Reagan.

Despite this, Fourth Estate still runs smoothly, running their weekly issues with as much content as possible, serving as a way for students to stay connected to their school and college culture.

It hasn’t always been pretty though; Fourth Estate has had moments where it paints some aspects at mason in a not so appealing light.

“We’ve pissed off some people on campus before, but that’s the life of a student paper,” said Reagan.

Although some feathers were rustled belonging to those on campus, the paper has never been interfered with by administration (who funds them) or others who have been covered in any way—be it positive or negative.

The content published isn’t always so hard-hitting, however, sometimes the newspaper kiosks around campus stay stocked until the new issue rolls out the next week.

Mitch Westall, the sports editor of the paper, said in an interview, “I think it has some impact. People definitely read it. It’s not everyone’s go-to news source but it’s not irrelevant.”

Far from irrelevant, the paper is read by students and faculty alike, both in print and online. But no news media goes without criticism from its readers—the one-way medium of news media is fading from the paradigm—people want their voices heard.

One such student, Ali Asif, sophomore, had a few thoughts about the paper: “I’d like to see less political driven articles in the paper. I like reading the paper editions every week because it’s a release from looking at screens all day, so reading more about an already extensively covered topic by major news outlets is tiring to me.”

He added, “I’d also like to see more music journalism, like album reviews, new releases from different genres, local concerts dates, etc.”

But a student newspaper such as the Fourth Estate isn’t just there for students to read—though that is the main function—it’s also for the writers, the editors, and the rest of the staff who also attend Mason yet still keep the paper afloat.

Westall summed the paper up at the end of his interview, “I think that it’s good for what it is. It’s here for aspiring journalists to practice and perfect their craft before heading into the real world.”