Journalism: the second chance

My mother holding me back in the day, just before she realized I was destined to write.
My mother, Joann Clausen, holding me back in the day just before she realized I was destined to write. Photo courtesy of Joann Clausen.

We could trace my journalistic future back to the Doggy Times, where my six year old self single-handedly wrote, managed and published a fictional newspaper about their imaginary friends.

But we should also look at my school life, where I could count my real life friends on one hand. A boy “asked me out” while his friends cawed in the background and once, when I accidentally broke a desk, snickering persisted until another teacher lectured the chorus class for an agonizing ten minutes. I rarely vented my grievances like these aloud. Only the librarian and my mentors earned my full trust, fostering a love of knowledge and escaping the present.

Writing, whether it was essays, comics, and short stories, however, always gave me solace.

The Vignette newspaper staff in Fall 2011. Photo courtesy of the Vignette Facebook page.
The Vignette newspaper staff in Fall 2011. Photo courtesy of the Vignette Facebook page.

So when I went to Nassau Community College, it only made sense to timidly step into the Vignette‘s (the student-run college newspaper) office, with a piece about the how hackers replaced all the videos on the Sesame Street YouTube channel with porn in hand. The opinions editor exclaimed how happy he was to have someone write this, and subsequently put it in the next issue. I became a copy editor a semester later, then spearheaded the features section for the rest of my time at NCC.

I found a home.

The group, featuring myself, Bridget Downes, Sunasia (“Sunny”) Turnbow, Diana Lopez and others grew together like a crazy, semi-dysfunctional family. We talked about everything from sexuality and drugs to the poor state of the country. If you missed your birthday like I did, you’d find your desk drowning in colorful sticky notes. Don’t rule going to a themed party as if you were in the 1950s, either.

newsseum
Sunasia Turnbow, Diana Lopez, Kara Curtin, Bridget Downes, Megan Murphy and I in Washington D.C. as springs began. Yes, we made it to the bus and survived the trip to the Newseum. Photo courtesy: Kara Curtin.

We could laugh through hell together. Imagine a fully loaded truck, with tires ready to burst any time, roaring through New York City to chase down a bus leaving for the Newseum in Washington D.C. We did stuff like that. We even overcame Superstorm Sandy and, in my opinion, pulled through the aftermath together.

Working with the editorial board to throw the paper together was a pleasure. It wasn’t work. I had no problem writing multiple stories in the Features section and contributing across the paper. There was freedom. I could write about anything, like Mitt Romney’s ridiculous plans to cut the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and just how and why Sandy was so devastating, to smaller things like the efforts of local blood drives to supply the nearby medical center. It was strangely satisfying.

Stuff like this led to Richard Conway, our faculty adviser, calling me “a shy tiger of a journalist.”

Accepting the SUNY Chancellors Award, given to less than 300 students in the entire SUNY system, from Chancellor Nancy Zimpfer in Albany. Photo credit: Joann Clausen.
Accepting the SUNY Chancellors Award for Student Excellence (CASE), given to less than 300 students in the entire SUNY system, from Chancellor Nancy Zimpher in Albany. Photo credit: Joann Clausen.

My career at NCC ended with a 4.0 GPA, dozens of articles published and several accolades.  I got recognition from my staff, the campus community and even the state of New York. But more importantly, I found my destiny as a journalist and a community of like-minded people.

Life here at Stony Brook University may be a struggle, but not being in the journalism program would be worse. It’s my very foundation.

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