“Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.”
These are a few words from Bob Herbert’s good-bye column in The New York Times, published last March. He’ll be the commencement speaker for my class in a few weeks and will probably paint an honest, if not bleak, picture for the next shipment of graduates from this institution. Pop goes the college dream bubble.
But honestly, after four years at Allegheny, cautionary tales like Herbert’s feel weirdly familiar and easily digestible.
I’m prepared to accept that a cheese and crackers snack in bed might be the biggest treat at the end of my day, Liz-Lemon-style, since I made the cracked-out decision to pursue a career in journalism.
That said, working on The Campus quelled my fears of a doomsday future. It forced me to do things I was terrified to do every day. It put me in positions to frequently question authority and my peers. It forced me to write all the time.
I’m hard-wired to say the work was thankless, especially when press nights stretched until morning, but people did say thank you. They did notice when we worked harder. And they did say so.
I was lucky to work with a killer staff and a tremendous new adviser in my last year. I want to say thank you to my fellow editors, who knew exactly what kind of vodka I liked, told me when my headline choices were shitty and didn’t throw garbage at me when I used hashtags in face-to-face conversations.
Thanks to Caley Cook for taking on the first journalism comp during her first year on the job, and for being incredibly patient, all the time.
To students interested in the newspaper but unsure: do it. We always need more and different writers. A science or tech reporter. A sex columnist. A film or music critic. A student savvy with numbers to argue for a higher budget so we can buy a new espresso machine pens. It’s a great gig.
Not always smooth-sailing though — for all we wanted to cover the illicit sex, drugs, cocoa puffs and hate crimes on our campus, few will go on the record. With controversial stories, we’ve been told, “You’re out of your league on this one.”
Out of our league? We’re a newspaper, named The Campus, with the purpose of reporting on this campus. Shit, if these stories aren’t in our league, then please, put it in writing, so we can print a giant QR code on one sheet of paper that’ll take smart phone users directly to the Chompergram.
Bearing Herbert’s warnings in mind, I consider last year’s senior editors of The Campus, whom I looked up to so much. They’re doing amazing things now, along with other alumni I’ve known. Maybe the U.S. has lost its way entirely, as Herbert argues, but Allegheny students seem ready to deal with it. If I could do it all over, I wouldn’t. I’d come to this college, I’d pick the same major and I’d write for this newspaper.
Herbert’s column discusses inequality, low-paying jobs for new graduates and gross maldistributions of wealth and power. These are our problems now. We have a lot more to learn and a shit-ton of work to do. But if Allegheny students are used to anything, it’s having a shit-ton of work to do.
Herbert’s final statement, “New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed,” might explain why he’s speaking at colleges like ours, hoping to make an impression on us. I’m looking forward to it, and to a lot more. Hundreds of us are off to face the big, bad world. I hear it bites. But I think we’re ready to bite back. #chompchomp
Katrina Tulloch will pursue her master’s degree in journalism at The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.