My second year of college found me doing everything I could to be involved on campus. I wanted to have the quintessential college experience of rushing from activity to activity as a student, but the only “activities” I rushed to and from were ice cream and pop tarts. It wasn’t my best year. So after some soul-searching, I decided to apply to write for the school paper.
I had seen advertisements for the position posted throughout the student center, and each ad filled my mind with visions of me becoming a campus icon because of how I’d cover the breaking news in a tough yet fair way.
The editor in chief reached out shortly after my application had been submitted and said she’d like to interview me. This led to a two-minute interview during which the editor told me that the job was mine. I beamed with pride and assumed that it was due to my stellar writing sample (a nine-page exposé on the Church of Scientology with hard-hitting sentences like, “the offer to be able to disencumber his/her mind and have better mental health is a pretty tantalizing offer”).
In hindsight, I realize that I was quickly offered the job, not because of my talent but because the school paper was one of the lowest items on the list of clubs students wanted to join, and it was in desperate need of more writers. But, regardless of the circumstances surrounding my hiring, I jumped into the job with the enthusiasm of an intern on Capitol Hill.
I had dreams of filling a binder with stories during my college career as a reporter, but the reality is that I only wrote two stories during my semester working for the paper. The first story centered on a fundraising initiative put on by DAE, the Alumni Relations student organization, which, ironically, I now oversee as an employee at the university.
I remember approaching the story with high energy but soon growing discouraged as I realized that collecting content wouldn’t be as easy as I’d initially hoped. The fundraising project involved driving a golf cart around campus to pick up students in the dead of winter to take them to their classes, but no one would ever hail the cab when I was riding in it.
Growing increasingly frustrated as my deadline approached, I rigged the article by offering to pay for my friend’s ride so I could interview him. The interview was as wooden and forced as you would imagine an entirely staged one to be, but it made the final edit of the article. Favorite line from that first piece? Probably the super creative one where I wrote, “through all of these varied ideas, the DAE has certainly put the fun in fundraising.”
The second story entailed a review of the comedy club at the college, and it was in the moment when I was assigned to cover the performance that I knew I could never be a reporter. I loathed the comedy club and had vowed never to attend a performance, but my job forced me to not only attend it but also write a detailed review of the show.
I walked into the room with the poise of a New York Times food critic entering a trendy new eatery in Williamsburg and sat in the dead center of the auditorium. As I expected, I did not enjoy the show but had to do my best to spin the story to seem like I wasn’t harboring a grudge against the student group. The truth behind my feelings? I just hate improv unless Tina Fey herself is performing it.
Following the (online) publication of the two articles, I turned in my resignation and looked towards a brighter future. And things did begin to look up since my junior year saw me being much more involved on campus. But I always looked back on my time spent writing for the student paper and saw it as a formative experience that taught me what it meant to be a hard-nosed reporter.