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Farewell Column: A collision with journalism

You should probably write for the paper,” my dad tells me as we drive home from UNH. It’s the drive home from the spring semester of my junior year. I have only just declared journalism after several regrettable attempts at other majors. “Yeah, I’m sure we’ll talk about that in one of my classes” I say. At this point I hadn’t done any real journalism and didn’t know what it meant to write a story.

I got into journalism in part because of time constraints and also just coincidence. Professor Howland told me to take intro to journalism before I ever thought of declaring. Before I knew it I was in writing and reporting the news with Meg Heckman and waist deep in the major. Fortunately, I really like to talk to people and I like to write even more. It’s one of those things you don’t see coming until you’re in it. A year prior and I might have told you how much I hated school and how I felt like I was getting ripped off.

“You should stick to this. You’re, like, really easy to talk to.” That’s what a woman told me while interviewing her for the paper. I thanked her. At that point I had worked my way up to being a staff writer at the paper after contributing for a semester. What she said has really had an impact on me. I could tell she was at ease talking to me and I started to notice I had the same effect on others. And I think there’s a different between “being a good listener” and being easy to talk to. I think the difference is that talking is a conversation, talking is being engaged and, I was so happy to hear I was good at that.

Writing a story a week, it also struck me whenever someone would tell me they liked my article. Writing news is so factual and straightforward, for the most part, that it’s funny to hear that someone got something out of it. Of course it’s informative but the way people said they liked my article always surprised me.

I personally get so much out of the experience of writing a story. I’m talking with people and hearing their stories, seeing things I wouldn’t otherwise get to see, taking photos of those things, talking to important people, meeting someone with a common view. It might be a small story but those connections you make stay with you. And, it’s impossible to unlearn things that people teach you along the way.

Writing for a university paper is nice because living on a campus is like living in a small city. Every event and every person you’ll need to get in contact with is usually somewhere across campus so my feet are my primarily mode of transportation when I’m reporting. It feels like I’m an actor playing the roll of a journalist; I’ve got my pen, my note pad and my recorder.

Lisa Miller’s intro to journalism class that I took the spring semester before that ride home with my dad was a great class because she showed us the textures of journalism. I remember we watched movies that showed the grit of writing the news. News is this intangible thing that you create with facts and quotes and pictures. I like how, before something is written, it doesn’t really exist in the same way as it does as an idea out in the world. In a way it is creating something from nothing.

I’ll end with something I wrote for my non-fiction class with Leah Williams.

I have caught myself trying to believe that there is something inherently wrong with me, and I know other people do this too. It’s not something physical or even mental really, just this idea that I won’t be able to accomplish something because I’m me. It’s nonsensical and really debilitating. It must be some kind of psychological complex and I think it borders on the egotistical. Because, to think that there is something inherently anything about yourself, pretty much means that you think you’re special. Even if it is in a negative light, you still believe you are different for some cosmic reason. So I have tried to catch myself thinking, “oh, I wont be able to do that” and instead telling myself I can. 

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