The Beacon is the student newspaper of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, Massachusetts, a small, feisty liberal arts college where the journalism program has a hands on, real-life newspaper. The student news crew percolates all week,collecting interviews and data, writing the stories, editing, laying out and publishing college news, community news, arts and entertainment features, sports coverage, Q & As and delightful student profiles.Under the eye of Professor Jenifer Auger, there’s a real live news operation going on at MCLA, with a serious student editor, copy chief, a crew of writers and copy editors. They are all going at it and taking it quite seriously.
I was invited to spend the afternoon as “editor for a day” recently and worked one-on-one with these aspiring young writers and editors. I edited, suggested, critiqued, found buried leads and jested with a talented but comma-happy sports writer. It was a gleeful day. I was a fish in water, swimming with other wonderful fish. It was a happy return to my journalism roots, and a reminder of what a joy it is to mentor others.
As a public relations professional, a career that has made me a new kind of journalist, it was great to work with these young journalists. Despite the ravages that have stripped much of the soul of the industry, give me hope about journalism’s future. I volunteered to go back a few more times.
“I wanted to do this since I was a kid,” said one beaming young man as I reviewed page designs spread out across the counter-tops.
My only group speech was about sports writers, who often toil in isolation and in high-pressure conditions, in all manner of hot and wet weather, against vicious deadlines. So often they are underestimated, but they often have unparalleled talent, grit and descriptive style.
“Sports writers are a subculture in journalism, off in the corner, but never underestimate a sports writer,” I said. “They are the best descriptive writers out there, and in a natural disaster, they may end up being your best breaking news reporters.”
I can’t wait to get back in there. Thanks to MCLA for having me.