Name: Ben Brasch
College Newspaper: The Independent Florida Alligator
Where I Am Now: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hyperlocal Reporter
As I sit in my aged metropolitan apartment listening to what may be a rat in my wall, I thank my college newspaper. It prepared me for damn near every experience so far in my life. When a nocturnal beast fell from the ceiling of the decrepit former fraternity house and into the pit of people designing the newspaper, they ran over to the bar to tell us. The creature was run off and never seen again.
My college newspaper is no longer in that building. Newspapers throughout the industry have been displaced as they shrink to the embarrassment of many. I’ve seen alternating light bulbs unscrewed in a newsroom ceiling. Do you think quality journalism makes for a healthy democracy? Invest in the future. Start at the beginning the right way. Learning a language and culture requires immersion.
In college, I dealt with liars and thieves and pikers — and that was just student government. I saw tempers and cigarettes flare nightly in the newsroom. Errors rented room in my gut until the next mess-up, no matter the size. But the treads and risers were so small that ever story was a triumph in some way. A article about a man who sold potatoes, led to a story about a cop who met his lady after years apart and then they ran a crab shack. In time, articles became stories.
I wouldn’t be where I am today with this annoying rat if not for my student newsroom experience. The people I worked with are so good I shudder to think of us back in the same newsroom. We were all at our worst together in college, but we were getting better and that meant something. It meant long hours for little pay and the love of the game. Journalism doesn’t just happen. We kept our fellow students in mind as we reported on corruption and the day’s news. We were the only watchdog of 50,000 other young adults. Few fall into journalism with grace, it takes time (read: money) and patience to get just serviceable.
My experience as a student journalist taught me a new level of hard work. Me and my colleagues got better that so we could get out and do it on a bigger stage. And many of us made it because of all the mistakes we were allowed to make. As is said: “Cry in the dojo; laugh in the battlefield.” I’m coming for you, rat.