My true passion for The Argus was formed in a cauldron of controversy. While I was among the scores of freshmen at the 2013 orientation interest meeting and wrote a handful of op-eds and features—from a satire about Ted Cruz to a quasi in-depth look at the onset of trigger warnings—it wasn’t until the very existence of this paper was called into question that I realized the true power and responsibility of the press, even a college newspaper.
The pain members of the student of color community have shared in light of this paper’s failures has never been something I believe can be argued with or denied. The Argus has not been a stranger to controversy throughout its history, yet issues of representation and safety not only raised important questions about journalism, but also our role as members of the community. This isn’t an article arguing for the hegemony of free speech nor a plea for college students to be exempt from criticism, but rather a story about how arguably the most tense and even hostile conditions can produce passionate reporters.
Ever since I was in elementary school, I have been told that print is dead and journalism is dying. This discouragement from going into journalism was already there before issues relating to Wesleyan compounded the disincentive. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that it’s experiences like these that make for more careful, responsible, and passionate journalists. Whether or not one finds them justified, if the negative attitudes surrounding the media do anything productive for journalists, it’s that they weed out the uncommitted ones.
More than anything, my time at The Argus has introduced me to some of the most impressive and passionate people I’ve ever met. Each news article and feature introduced me to people I may not have met otherwise, and each time I learned something about their lives, I became a more empathetic person. Writing about the Bon Appétit workers made me more grateful than ever for the food I took for granted on campus, and a profile on pizza chef turned grad student Merton Champagne took me even further to reconsider what it meant to be a student. I heard Posse veterans tell me what it was like when they decided to go to war on 9/11. I got to share some of the best nights of my life with student bands making their debut or rocking their final show. Badass alumnae shared their stories with me about how they were fighting for a better form of feminism, from the blogosphere to the courts. On the North End of Main Street alone, I learned from one of the leading figures in community health care and one of the top restauranteurs out of all of the diners in the world. Profiles of the Chief Film Critic of The New York Times and the Managing Editor of The New Yorker showed me what it takes to make it in the top tier of journalism, and I made two friends along the way.
Trips to the archives deepened my reservoir of emotions and let me live vicariously through experiences I wasn’t even alive for. I saw Albert Camus’ handwriting in person, gave new life to the presidency of Victor Butterfield, and rekindled a love for modernist architecture that left our campus long ago.
Arguably half of my most played songs on Spotify and maybe an even larger portion of my favorite TV shows and movies wouldn’t be nearly as dear to me if it weren’t for the time I spent wrestling with them for reviews published in the arts section. I was already thankful for the aesthetic education I received here, and the faith countless arts editors had in me to experiment enhanced it even more.
Lastly, and more important than the work itself, are the people who made this journey so special. From my parents loving me, believing in me, and never doubting a career choice that never had a fighting chance before I met a man that began to change all of that. That man is Mark Singer, who took a chance on me and gave me my start in journalism. Out of a few hundred students at the Yale Journalism conference my junior year, Mark took a gamble and put his faith in me to be his research assistant for his book on Donald Trump, “Trump and Me.” Going back even further, it was Jess Zalph ’16 who gave me my first Argus, who encouraged me to come to an interest meeting, and who was the first person to truly believe in my ability to write anything but political hot takes masking as op-eds (this included a drought of months where I couldn’t get published in the opinion section because of doubt in my writing quality, and Jess went against the grain to help me). I’ll forever miss my first team of co-editors in opinion, the undeniable dream team of Isabel Fattal ’17, Sammi Aibinder ’18, and Emma Solomon ’18. There are countless others who I’ve worked with across sections that would require a lengthy list to name, but my co-editor-in-chief Gili Lipman ’17 deserves a special shoutout, as well as the copy crew led by Emmet Teran ’18, Hannah Reale ’20, and Sarah Regan ’18, who kept me laughing and sane during many late nights at the office.
I’ve spent countless hours thinking of what my final article would be, often too far in advance. In this instance, it’s best to follow my Times Union mentor Paul Grondahl’s advice, which he inherited from another mentor: Get out of the way of the story. The people who I met along the way and their stories can speak for themselves, and they’ll live on long after we’re gone in the archives (special shoutout if you’re reading this in the Argus archives—sorry if you have to look up what a “shoutout” is).
I’m happy that with the help of some exceptional people, I can leave the paper a little better than when I found it, and that a cauldron can make a perfectly good melting pot with a little determination and passion.