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In appreciation of college journalism

Published: April 26, 2013
Section: Opinions, Top Stories


Today I will pick up a copy of The Hoot and slowly, the realization that my time as editor is now over, will begin to sink in. Few articles, letters or essays from the past four years can match the difficulty level of this one—a farewell column to my career as a college journalist. Through journalism, this community has taught me a series of lessons that I will try to briefly explain.

Students founded The Hoot to establish a community newspaper for Brandeis University. We take that mission seriously—it’s what drives us to report stories each week and stay up until the early hours of Friday morning writing and editing them on carefully designed pages. Brandeis is a community filled with individuals of incredible character, heart and achievement. It has been an enormously gratifying privilege to serve this community as a reporter and editor for four years.

What I have learned to love about journalism, what I will miss beginning tomorrow, is the opportunity to meet ordinary people and tell their stories. I’ll miss the unlimited chances to discover the impact of policy on people, to learn how current events change the lives of our peers, friends, staff, faculty and alumni. And I’ll miss the chance to talk with those people—to listen, ask questions and then tell those stories for the community to read every Friday morning.

As journalists, we are often given unique access to stories and interviews with famous people—politicians, professional athletes and movie stars. Famous people have their share of stories, but it’s the ordinary tales of private citizens that bring journalism to life. After four years, I don’t remember many memorable quotations from the people deemed celebrities by our society.

But what I do remember, and will not forget, are community stories. Hearing memories about a former BEMCo director who sacrificed his life in Hurricane Irene because he thought someone was trapped in a submerged car. An interview with a Brandeis employee who lost a relative on 9/11 and struggled with the media hype over the tragedy’s 10-year anniversary. The fear in the voice of a young woman alleging she was the victim of repeated sexual violence. The U.N. director on a fact-finding mission for the 2009 Gaza War who spoke in simple terms about the impact of politics on his family. These are the interviews and stories, filled with a complexity of human emotion, that brought journalism to life for me at Brandeis.

In journalism, you learn quickly that truth can be more complicated with extra stipulations and longer footnotes than it first appeared. In pursuit of the truth for any story, the more controversial and contentious the underlying facts, the more uncomfortable sources and readers become.

Nearly each week at The Hoot, I was reminded of a speech Governor Deval Patrick gave in his 2010 re-election campaign. As he spoke at the Democratic Convention in Worcester, I sat on the press riser with other campaign interns and journalists and heard these words: “I know some of those choices have made even some of our traditional allies uncomfortable. But this job and these times demand more than making each other comfortable.”

Those words are also true for journalism.

For if journalists don’t ask the uncomfortable questions and seek to answer them as best they can, who can our society turn to for the job?

What I value even more than the interviews and stories, however, are the people who made working for The Hoot so enjoyable—the friendships formed on Thursday nights in a tiny little campus newspaper office.

Throughout college, I have often been torn between my career interests in politics and journalism. I don’t know which path I’ll start on or end up on, but I do know this: It’s difficult to imagine finding a job as rewarding, fulfilling and simply enjoyable as this one has been.