Words of weight: A letter from your editor-in-chief


Kentucky Kernel editor-in-chief Rayleigh Deaton poses for a photo on her first day of senior year at her home on Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, in Lexington, Kentucky.

When I was in high school, my dad gave me a typewriter.

For those unfamiliar with this archaic piece of technology, a typewriter is the predecessor of the computer: a beautiful, sturdy, nearly indestructible contraption that weighs a ton and stands as a quiet link to years past.

This particular typewriter, a baby blue electric Smith Corona Coronet, looked like it was straight out of the 1970s – and it was. My dad clack-clacked his college essays out on its plastic keys, a parade of black letters marching like a line of ants across the white waterfall of paper.

He also used the typewriter when writing for his college newspaper, covering news from the University of Arkansas back in a time when “cut and paste” entailed the use of scissors and glue, and film cameras were not nostalgic rarities.

That same typewriter sits on my desk today in the Kentucky Kernel newsroom, as I tap out these words on my laptop. It is a visual reminder to me of the ancestry I have as a journalist – an ancestry not through blood but through a passion for news, for truth and for the love of storytelling.

Part of the reason I love typewriters so much is because of their physicality. You can actually see the words being formed, actually hear the mechanics as each letter is forever imprinted onto the page.

As someone used to being able to hit “backspace” whenever I make a mistake, the inherent permanence of a typewriter causes my words-per-minute stats to plummet.

It creates a unique relationship with the words you are writing, as though they are being created, willed into existence. When using a typewriter, you are connected to the things you are saying. You can touch the paper right then and there – it is distinctly real. Each keystroke births a letter that cannot ever be taken back.

They have weight.

As opposed to the words I’m now writing on a Google doc. They are real, yes. They have meaning. But they can be easily erased, deleted, stricken from the record. They have impermanence.

I think journalism is like a typewriter, if you’ll bear with the analogy.

Those of us who see it as our calling to document the human experience in words should approach this task with caution and humility. We write words that have weight and permanence. Who can say how many people will read them?

There are copies of the Kernel in the newsroom from the 1920s; the reporters’ words, immortalized in print, outlive them, and I see this as both an incredible blessing and a terrifying thought.

I have the distinct honor to be a two-time editor-in-chief of the Kentucky Kernel. There are only a handful of people who can say this, and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue serving the paper, the campus and the community in this position for another year.

However, I do not see this as a task to be taken lightly. We stand at a crossroads, not just in the field of journalism but at the University of Kentucky, as we slowly emerge from a pandemic and try to regain a semblance of life pre-2020. At the Kernel, we take it upon ourselves to share the stories of people and events for an audience both now and in the future, and I hope we see our words as weighty and substantive. Each one matters.

I am thrilled to serve as your editor-in-chief again this year and look forward to another two semesters of award-winning student journalism for the University of Kentucky and the Lexington community.