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Inside NU mailbag: Goodbye, farewell from the editors-in-chief

Josh Rosenblat (center) and Henry Bushnell (right) will be handing over Inside NU editor-in-chief duties to Zach Pereles (left)
Josh Rosenblat (center) and Henry Bushnell (right) will be handing over Inside NU editor-in-chief duties to Zach Pereles (left)

The time has come. After approximately 18 months as co-editors-in-chief at Inside NU, we — Josh Rosenblat and Henry Bushnell — are officially stepping down today. It's been a thrilling ride, as well as a fulfilling and educational one, and one that's been made possible in part by you all — our loyal readers, listeners, viewers. So thank you. All of you.

We're not gone for good. Josh will still be involved in the site in some capacity during the fall, and Henry will return with six months worth of hot takes to spew in the winter.

But this is a transition for which we've been preparing for months, and we couldn't be more pleased to turn managerial control of the site over to Zach Pereles. Zach has been instrumental in Inside NU's growth over the past year, and we're confident his unerring drive and diligence will push the site and its staffers to new heights.

But before we bid adieu for a while... let's reflect. It's mailbag time:

Will football retain focus and keep expectations in check, avoiding a 2013-style letdown?
- Mike Deneen

Josh Rosenblat: I don’t think focus will be an issue of there’s a letdown. And knowing Henry like I do, I think he would agree that if Northwestern were to have a letdown in 2016, it wouldn’t be because of a lack of focus. Rather, let’s turn our attention to the "letdown" part. I think it will be hard to compare the 2016 team with the 2013 team. That 2013 team had so, so, so many injuries and, to exacerbate that bad luck, it had some pretty shoddy depth. You had Treyvon Green and Mike Trumpy toting the ball when Venric Mark went down. In 2016, Northwestern will have Warren Long, John Moten and Auston Anderson to replace Justin Jackson if anything were to happen to him. In short, I think Northwestern is going to be really good again next year. Might they reach 10 wins again? It’ll be tough. But I still think the 2016 team will be better than 2015.

Henry Bushnell: Defense worse. Offense better. Schedule tougher. Fortune flaky. 7-5. Maybe even 6-6. But not a "letdown."

Thoughts on NU's academic standards for athletes in FB/BBall?
- Jon Leibowitz

Rosenblat: My thoughts on them: I like them and am proud of them. I think it makes Northwestern stand out as an attractive option for recruits. Now I don’t really have an opinion on if the current standards are too high, too low or just right because I don’t know the current standards, but I do like that they’re in place.

Bushnell: I think we underestimate how binding they can be in some cases, and don’t appreciate the amount of extra work Fitz and Collins, but especially Fitz, have to do compared to their Big Ten and Power Five coaching brethren. Like Josh, I have no issue with them one way or another; I’ve just come to realize how large a factor they are. As Josh hinted at, Fitz has done an outstanding job of turning them into a positive for recruits that do qualify, but I think we — and I say "we" because I include myself and our staff — often don’t factor in how much more difficult it is to recruit when you also deal with academic evaluations. It’s an added step in an already exhaustive process, but it’s a process Fitz has learned to navigate really well.

Favorite road trip?
- Kevin Trahan and Ian McCafferty

Bushnell: There have been so many memorable ones. The Outback Bowl. Notre Dame. Big Ten Tournaments in Indy. Kenosha. I realized earlier this year that Nebraska is now the only Big Ten campus I haven’t been on.

But in three years, nothing has topped my first road trip. Freshman year. Assembly Hall. Indiana. The fact that it was my first probably aids its cause, as does the fact that a very, very bad Northwestern team pulled the upset in an absurdly Creany game. But everything about the trip was a spectacle to me. Even just driving through the nothingness of central Indiana, and then seeing this basketball pantheon arise out of nowhere was special.

Then there’s Assembly Hall. It’s such an enthralling building, in part because in a way it’s very awkward, yet still so revered. About an hour and a half before the game, I climbed a staircase to the upper deck, and just stood there for about 15 minutes, taking in both the building, and the Indiana fans — they’re a different breed — filling in around me. That was sort of my Big Ten basketball indoctrination.

Rosenblat: No need to wax poetic about this one like Henry did. Iowa 17. Northwestern 10. OT. October 26, 2013. I ate chili at Kevin Trahan’s childhood home. I think that takes the cake.

What was your favorite game to cover?
- Josh Burton

Bushnell: Notre Dame. It was the kind of experience I know I’ll be recounting 10, 15, 20 years from now.

Rosenblat: That Wisconsin football game from this year was crazy. But nothing was crazier than when Nebraska beat Northwestern on that Hail Mary in 2013. I was on the field, standing maybe 10 yards from the pylon where Jordan Westerkamp came down with the ball. So that was crazy.

But the press conference was an all-timer. First, I asked Pat Fitzgerald how the team felt after that gut-punch loss and he looked right back at me and said to 18-year-old freshman me: "How would you feel?"

Getting all journalism-y, I sat up straighter and responded as well as I could, "Well, I’m supposed to be imparti—"

"But you’re not!" he shot back.

Then a reporter from Nebraska kept asking Fitzgerald about "Trevor Semen," which was absolutely hilarious to all of us who are immature. Fitzgerald took it like a champ and corrected the reporter, who then continued to say "Semen" instead of "Siemian."

And third, the Daily Northwestern’s Alex Putterman asked former Wildcat running back Treyvon Green how he was feeling after the loss and Green, who got a bit banged up during the game, responded gleefully, "I’m feeling good."

I will never forget that game and all that went with it.

Best/worst parts about covering NU sports?
- Danny Rapaport

Bushnell: So I’m going to consider this question as "What are the best/worst parts about covering NU sports as a student reporter compared to covering other Power Five programs as a student reporter?" And the best part is, without a doubt, the access.

It’s not that Northwestern gives media better or worse access in general; it’s that NU gives it to students, and specifically to us, because there aren’t many other outlets to give it to. For example, the basketball program treats national writers like royalty whenever one wants to write a "Northwestern is on the rise" or "Is this the year for Northwestern?!?" column, but the reality is that at a given January or February pre-practice media availability session, the number of non-student, non-local TV station media members is usually between zero and two. And it’s more often zero than two.

Nobody covers Northwestern. At Wisconsin and Michigan, for example, student reporters are dwarfed in importance by the pros. But here, we’re not. That’s why, for example, we get to sit down with Fitz and Collins for hour-long podcasts. Students at other schools don’t get those types of opportunities.

Rosenblat: I’ll take the "worst part" and it’s the downside of what Henry just mentioned. Without any major media covering Northwestern sports consistently, it falls on 18-, 19-, 20- and 21-year-olds to provide the day-to-day coverage of the school and its sports teams. And while we all do a really good job, there’s really no room to make mistakes and when you do, Northwestern fan Twitter will lash out in disgust. When that happens, I think it brings out the worst in those who write about and follow these teams closest.

Favorite Big Ten campus to visit?
- Josh Burton

Bushnell: All I know is that it’s not Illinois. The dorms look like retirement homes.

Rosenblat: Michigan (especially its athletic facilities) was so nice it made me uncomfortable. But it’s hard to argue against Madison as the Big Ten’s best college town.

Bushnell: Agreed. I’ve been to Michigan and Wisconsin three or four times each. Definitely the top two.

If you were Northwestern AD for one day, what would you do?
- Martin Oppegaard

Rosenblat: This one’s easy for me: varsity hockey. I know the logistics would be hard to work out in just one day, but I truly do not care. I do not care about the finances. I do not care about a venue. I just want some CAWLIDGE HAWKEY in my life. In all seriousness, I think it would do really well at Northwestern from both a fan interest and team success perspective. There’s a lot of potential for some sweet sweaters and other apparel. It’s about as easy a call for me in this hypothetical world as possible.

Bushnell: Pay players I would do exactly what Jim Phillips would do, because I want to talk about how he’s #actually good. Like, really good. Like, one of the best things that has ever happened to Northwestern sports, when you consider the big picture. You can be cynical and deride some of his marketing as empty, but marketing is, to some extent, always empty, and what he’s done for Northwestern athletics has been remarkable. The crown jewel is the new Lakefront facility, which couldn’t have even been conceived of 10 years ago, before Phillips took over. He’s one of the best ADs in college athletics, and from a foundational standpoint, NU athletics are arguably in a better place than they've ever been before.

What's your favorite memory of your time at Inside NU?
- Multiple readers

Bushnell: The most rewarding feeling in journalism, and really in life, is investing in a process and then seeing the investment turn into tangible success. But it’s not the end result and the reactions that result elicits that are so rewarding. For me, it’s the final moments of the process. For a feature story, it might be piecing together a killer transition paragraph at 1:30 a.m. the night before publish. For my favorite story of the past three years, it was staying up until 6 or 6:30 a.m. to spice up formatting and graphics, and then reading over all 21,488 words one final time. When I got to Chris Martin’s final lines, I was flooded with emotion. I don’t know if that’s normal or not. I hope it is.

But that feeling multiplies in intensity when you’re working as part of a team. My favorite moment at Inside NU occurred at around 4 a.m. on a Wednesday night in April 2015. Josh, Preston Michelson and I had been working for roughly a month on a documentary on former Northwestern wide receiver Kyle Prater. We’d put endless hours into it. And on Monday night, it kinda sucked. On Tuesday night… still kinda sucked. All three of us walked away from our Tuesday night editing session discouraged. Nobody wanted to admit it, but I think we could all sense it. I vividly remember Josh asking me in a dead-silent parking lot at around 2 a.m., "Do you think it’s any good?"

The following night, after 8-10 hours of editing, we thought we had a finished product, so we watched it all the way through, all 17 minutes, no interruptions, all three of us silent. And at the end, I think we all turned to sort of gauge each other’s reactions, and then I’m pretty sure Josh says, "Holy shit, guys... It’s really good." We exchanged fist bumps. I probably almost teared up. Pretty soon afterwards, we walked back across campus, sunrise engulfing the lake. Eight hours later, I would hit publish. But that moment in a cramped 4th-floor editing room remains my favorite.

Rosenblat: Sure. Sure. That’s all well and good. But, I have something I’d like to get off my chest:

Henry, you’re a "jack-leg journalist, a 'purple-lovin’, booty-lovin’, Northwestern, book-readin’, fuckin’ turd."