The complexities of covering a college campus

| Editor in Chief 2009-2010

Covering a college campus can be one of the trickiest tasks for a young reporter. You try to maintain a level of professional objectivity, but with each passing year and story, you become more entwined and connected to the increasingly small community you are covering. As a reporter for Student Life for the last four years, this is the paradox that has complicated each article I have written. It’s a paradox that I have become resigned to, and one that has wielded me a lens to see the campus community in a light that I may have otherwise missed.

From the vice presidential debates to Sex Week, and everything in between, Student Life has allowed me to venture to events and meet people that have come to shape my time at Wash. U. I interviewed a dozen of my peers as they pitched tents and camped-out downtown for five days to rally the community against corporate power. I scribbled down notes while a student who I had only previously seen on my weekend nights out poignantly spoke at a city council meeting. And students in a newly established group aimed at exposing Wash. U. to the St. Louis art community encouraged me to explore a city with them that I knew embarrassingly little about. I became invigorated by causes that I never knew existed and imbued with a sense of admiration that there were people my age to effectively champion these now convincingly important causes.

I chose to be a college journalist, while others have dedicated their college years to social causes, art, innovative research in a lab or a creative fusion of all the above. I can confidently say that my interactions with professors, students and campus employees have made me a more well-rounded journalist than the actual process of writing any article has. There is such a diverse number of passionate and driven people on campus that collectively thread the fabric of the Wash. U. experience. But at times, the same fuel that drives our passions prevents us from truly recognizing the unique interests and accomplishments of those around us.

It is easy to become inundated by your own commitments, but make sure to take the time to listen to your peers. Listen to them and learn from them. Allow their perspectives to challenge and complicate your own as you work to pursue your interests. We will likely not have another opportunity to be surrounded by 6,000 other intelligent, interesting and ambitious people all in one confined place. So take advantage of it. As I start working in a newsroom full time next year, I look forward to working with people who share my excitement for journalism. But I am undoubtedly going to miss sitting next to that biology major in my literature class who just so happens to be in a band and works at a medical clinic.

This is not to say that it is not important to find your niche on campus. Student Life has given me a place to fully be myself, provided me with lasting friendships and prepared me for what I hope is a career of reporting. But it is important that our missions both on and off-campus don’t become insular and singular. Whether you are graduating next month or in the next few years, remember to enjoy what you do and allow the collective experiences of those around you to challenge and mature your approaches and outlooks.

Over the last four years, I have become invested in the stories of my peers, become friends with my sources and, within ethical limits, broken the cardinal rules of journalistic objectivity. To everyone who has helped me do this—my friends, my peers who have shared their stories with me and everyone else—thank you for a truly incredible and meaningful four years.

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