Friday, May 15, 2009

Beacon of Hope

My Accidental Rise up the College Newspaper Ladder

With zero journalism experience, halfway through my junior year I applied to be assistant Arts and Entertainment editor of Emerson's school paper, The Berkeley Beacon. Okay, I lied – I had some experience with the paper – I wrote a single semesters worth of terrible comic strips for the purpose of including secret coded notes to a girl I liked. It's hard to believe something equally intricate and nerdy didn’t work out. My newspaper career was over as quick as it had started. The attempt to reboot my journalistic self was due to the paper constantly getting free movie passes and the pretentiousness (and expense) of the film department. I figured as a film major it would be okay to lend my opinion to some movie reviews.

As I spent winter break staffing a USY convention in Orlando, major things were brewing at the newspaper office. It seems that the current Arts & Entertainment editor decided to transfer to a school closer to home, vacating her position. Nothing could have caught me more off guard than receiving a call I thought was about the assistant position and being offered section editor.

I accepted the position, ruffling a few feathers among the current staff, what with me not being a journalism student. Others were upset because they didn’t even know the position was open (neither did I). I switched one of my electives to be an introductory journalism course to learn the basics. Twenty-four eager freshmen and one out of place junior.

Once I got comfortable, I awarded myself a weekly column entitled "My Cleverly Titled Column," where I wrote about such important issues as television, what I wanted for my birthday and the state of professional wrestling. I went to a lot of press screenings, even those I had no intention of reviewing. There were meetings with celebrities in town promoting movies. I went to for personal reasons. Jack Black wished my sister happy birthday on the phone. Ridley Scott autographed a copy of Black Hawk Down for a friend. I was in a good place.

The semester flew by. Every Wednesday night we worked late hours in the office for the Thursday morning publication. The school paid for ten of us to attend a week long collegiate journalism convention in Seattle for spring break. I attended equal number of information sessions and press screenings. Most of the week focused on real news. The trip turned out to be more fun than learning, but when we came back to Boston it was back to work. By the time summer arrived, it was a much needed break from the weekly deadlines.

Three weeks before the summer ended I got a call from the new editor-in-chief. Both of the previous managing editors had graduated and the rest of the staff was all going to be sophomores or juniors. She offered me the position because I was going to be one of the only other seniors and I had come highly recommended from the previous editor. Now I was perfectly content to stay on and have another easy going semester watching movies and writing about anything I wanted. In the end, I took the position on the condition that I could still write for A&E when I wanted.

It was a lot more work, having to edit every article before it went for the final review with the chief. I wrote articles for news, editorial, sports, comics and lifestyle - basically every section that needed a fill in that week. When I moved to L.A. for my last semester, I wrote a few columns giving the west coast Emerson perspective, but eventually my involvement faded. A lot of my writing, including this blog is strongly influenced by the inexplicable year of my life where I accidentally became a journalist.


Anonymous said...

I love this! I remember the first day you came in and looked all wide eyed and scared, and then you became one of the best writers on staff. You forgot to include all the "A&E drama" with your assistant editor, haha. -Levis

Editor -in- Chief said...

I think you need a second post about the newspaper that almost wasn't -- remember public safety tried to take away our first amendment rights by shutting us down at midnight? Oh man, the the posts you could write....