Good News

I know that the TKS Editors’ Blog is supposed to be about TKS-y things: journalism, putting the paper together, crazy interviews, to-do lists that don’t make sense to anyone but ourselves at 3 a.m.

And I could blog about those things right now. I could blog about my awesome interview with Kevin and Samantha Prow, the owners and founders of baked, and how much fun I had writing a profile on them. I could blog about what it was like to put together a 20-page paper, and how freaked out Mosaic was to fill another entire page with content when we were low on it for the week. I could blog about things I’m doing in preparation to follow my music scene beat for my journalism class.

But I won’t blog about those things, not any of them, not right now.

We have had a tragedy on campus, and that should still be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. I’m still surprised that events went on as planned on both Sunday and Monday. I’m surprised that we had classes. I’m a little miffed at myself for not checking to see if the flags were at half staff today, and I’m more miffed if they weren’t.

This affects everyone because this could have happened to anyone.

And I think that a lot of people fail to realize that. We have all been reminded that life is short, but we can still so easily forget that life is dangerous. We do, after all, live in the Knox bubble. But with Sandy wreaking havoc in New England, the increase in sexual assaults and hate crimes on campus, the shooting in Galesburg, the daily gasp-inducing moments on the road with crazed drivers, and the simple discomfort of walking anywhere alone late at night, it seems that there has never been a more terrifying time to live. And I didn’t even mention irrational fears of things like carbon monoxide leaks or meningitis (yes, those are mine).

Across the charts, this has been a difficult term for everyone. Whether it’s the constant battle against homework and extracurriculars and scheduling it all, interpersonal relationships and their peculiar tendency to overlap in peculiar ways peculiarly all the time, or more serious events, it doesn’t seem that anyone is getting out unscathed. I know that I am, at least, speaking for myself. A lot of personal issues have come up in the past 7 weeks, and I still don’t know what to make of any of it. I continue to return home to St. Louis–that, I know. Maybe I want to recharge and refresh; maybe I want to be with family; maybe I want to run away from it all.

But when I can’t, I have found incredible consolation from everyone in the Knox community. Aside from friends, who we all expect to be there for us, complete strangers have been supportive without even knowing it. The administration has been on my side, never doubting anything that I’ve told them, never questioning it, never questioning me when they arguably shouldn’t. Not everyone gets this everywhere. Anyone at a state school probably doesn’t.

We are lucky for this. Knox may have the worst technology known to modern man, and our cafeteria food may not always be up to par, but if a student needs help, they’re there.

And maybe people need to be reminded. I know I was skeptical of how I’d be received when I first began approaching people in my times of need. We think that they have better things to be doing, more important things, that they’ll never find time for us anyway. But now, more than ever, we need to know that that’s just totally wrong. The whole student body is either in a crisis now or probably has been at some point, but it doesn’t need to be like that any longer than it has to.

This post is probably sounding a lot like a PSA. But I wish someone would have told me any of this before the term started. I wish someone would have told me that it’s safe to reach out to others. I wish someone would have told me that everything I was feeling and continue to feel was normal then and (as Dan Larson still says) is normal now. I wish someone would have told me to give myself time, to give myself kindness. (Dan Larson says these things too.)

I wish someone would have told me that things will get better in the littlest ways. They have, and they still will.

It’s a small, small world: Knox’s Mitt Romney connection

“Be suspicious about anything that everyone else believes.”

-Patrick Graham ’62

If we’re going by the self-reported data, Knox is a pretty liberal campus. I’d say it’s hard to dispute that, though we do have political organizations spanning a wide range of the political spectrum. But as I found out in recent weeks, we can’t discount the possibility of connections to the other side of the aisle.

Knox likes to tout its connection to President Barack Obama. He gave a commencement speech here, and he holds an honorary doctorate (just like Stephen Colbert). But earlier this term, what I thought was the election story of the year fell right into my lap — and at first, it seemed to me entirely antithetical to our conception of Knox.

I was perusing the Knox website, looking over the profiles of our trustees, when I stopped at one of the life trustees (a former trustee given an honorary title, much like Roger Taylor is now president emeritus) — Patrick Graham, class of 1962. His profile is rather unassuming; there was no photo and a brief description. But here’s the part that caught my eye: co-founder and former director of Bain & Company. The precursor to Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital. Yeah, that one.

So I did some digging and called him up. Turns out that Graham was a Galesburg native, and not only did he help to start Bain & Company — he personally recruited Romney to the consulting firm and later pushed today’s GOP nominee toward political life.

Before I did my reporting, I was in something of a state of shock. To my knowledge, “Bain” was a scummy word associated with questionable business practices and “shipping jobs overseas.” But then I did the reporting. And then the Knox connection made more sense.

It turns out that when Graham and Bill Bain went to set up their consulting firm, they aimed for a more ethical business model, and they felt they had the brains to be just as successful as the Boston Consulting Group, the well-established firm they left. Most telling was Graham’s explanation of what he learned at Knox: learning how to question predominant assumptions.

Full article: The man behind Mitt Romney

Productivity on Pub Night

Pub Night turned out to be Pub Morning/Afternoon this fine Fall Institute Day. Editors trickled in starting 9 a.m, instead of 4 p.m. I came in at 10:30 a.m. and briskly dealt with the remaining articles waiting to be edited online. I expected us to be finished around 7 or 8 p.m. But we are still here. Not that I mind. I actually get a lot of logistical stuff done when I’m in the publication office. There’s something about having to stay in one place that makes me focus better. Or, it must be the buzz of intellectual energy in the room that keeps me energized, as we mechanically put together a respectable newspaper out of a variety of articles, some of which are well-written, but most of which require a polish or two. Either way, I’ve come to enjoy pub nights because one can’t help wake up Thursday morning without feeling accomplished; that is, provided that I get the bulk of my week’s work done before and after Wednesday.

Some sap for your fall term pancakes

Despite the fact that it was Homecoming weekend, I left campus on Friday in favor of someone else’s home. And I kind of missed the staff. A little. In a sort of way.

Part of this isn’t really surprising (we’re hardly horrible people). But part of it is. With the exception of one person, I wasn’t friends with anyone on staff prior to joining the paper. I still remember the first meeting I attended at the end of last year when we transitioned into the new Exec board. Everyone had all these inside jokes and seating arrangements. I was really nervous when I walked out. The novelty of being around new people hadn’t yet worn off but I felt the underlying question peeking through: What if I never grew to like any of them as people?

Working together for a common goal usually emphasizes what everyone has in common rather than what they don’t. You learn to depend on people you’d never otherwise talk to and differences that might be different in another context are swept under the rug when working for that common goal. In this regard, TKS is a difficult beast. On the one hand, we all have the same desire to make the best paper we can and that means we all pull our weight in volunteering and staying as late as necessary to get the job done. On the other hand, we wouldn’t be able to make the paper if we, and our writers and photographers, didn’t all approach it from different angles. Though we call ourselves The Knox Student, we don’t strive to be homogeneous That’s why we have the Debating Columnists section. That’s why we ran multiple viewpoints on “The Innocence of Muslims” in the same issue. That’s why we have this blog, so we can each tell of our individual relationships with the paper in our own words.

In the end, though, everything worked out. There’s no one I want to copy edit out of existence and it turns out not much drama happens when nineteen people enter a pub office, stop being polite, and start getting real. This is probably a good thing. Who’d want to watch a reality TV show about people making a newspaper anyway?

Taylor Swift

A fight broke out in the office last night over whether Taylor Swift was attractive or not. The people who were fighting for attractive were all men, but most of the women arguing seemed to be saying she was pretty, but not that way. How straight women are supposed to be an authority over straight men when it comes to whether or not a pop star is desirable, I’m not sure. They weren’t arguing about if she was a good musician or not, just if she was pretty. And I’ll admit, I sided with the men. She’s a very pretty woman.The argument broke up after a couple heated minutes with no real resolution, but at the end, we had all spoken our piece.

So, if you were worried TKS editors aren’t discussing the important issues that crop up when you produce a paper, don’t worry. We’ve got it covered.

How to untangle a story

(This morning at about 12:15 a.m., I started writing a story about polling. I wasn’t excited about it; the material felt dry to me at first glance, and having done phone surveys myself in the past, I knew how tedious they could be to both outsiders and pollsters themselves. So I let it sit for a day after I transcribed interviews and organized notes before I began. The result was a little gem of a piece that I really love. Here’s how I did it.)

1. Always start after midnight. By midnight, your mind has reached that strange state of lucidness where everything is perfectly clear and connections previously obscured by mundane, everyday tasks come into focus.

2. Go to your most difficult interview and pick the one quote (or two) that is usable. It’s usually a detail that grabbed your pen when you were talking to the person and made you write furiously, whereas previously you were kind of scribbling along and wondering when you could finally go eat lunch.

3. If your interviewees brought up any outside studies, reports, etc., go find them. Read them quickly. Understand the context in which your story is situated.

4. Begin with the hard data, because you can’t manipulate it. It must be presented exactly as is and thus forms a foundation from which different viewpoints can flow.

5. Find a scene that portrays the conflict in the story. (No conflict? No story.) Go to the top of your word processor page and describe it. Who is there? What is he or she doing? Use environmental details–sights, sounds–to get across feelings that are difficult to put into words.

6. Don’t break your train of thought. It’s tempting to write “INSERT ADDITIONAL SENTENCE HERE” and move on to something easier. But force yourself through that sentence. Your story will flow better for it.

7. At the same time, though, if an idea comes to you, as ideas often do in the wee hours of the morning, for something that will come later in the story, jot it down right then. Fleeting thoughts get lost when sleep calls. Make a note and keep going.

8. Keep writing. Everything will come in due time.

long time coming.

This blog is a very late blog. To be honest, I’m still quite unclear on what even constitutes a blog. And to be honest some more, I’m a little bit intimidated by what the other members of the staff have produced so far. Ruminations on the nature of language, on morality in journalism, and on the state of the world in general, to name a few. Don’t hold your breathe for that here; my blogging capabilities are not quite there yet. But from what I gather, a good blog should be personal. I can think of nothing more personal than home, and what that’s supposed to mean, so here we go.

Things I miss about Oregon:

The streets are basically flooded with good coffee. Coffee that you can drink black without wanting to sob forever.
The coastline, the way the rain falls into the sea, (holy poop, an oxford comma!), saltwater taffy (even though I hate it)…alright, basically everything that has to do with the ocean.
Mexican food that doesn’t suck. I lived on tacos for the majority of the past year and do not know what to do with myself without them.
The vineyards. The state flower is the Oregon grape (I know, how Bacchic of us).
You can purchase vinyl without being referred to as a “hipster.” (I’m actually still really confused as to why that’s a negative moniker in the Midwest. Someone who likes good food, good coffee, good literature, good beer, good film, good music, and is lord of the flannel. What about that isn’t lovely?)
Everything about Mt. Hood.
Ken Kesey lived approximately two hours from my home. I repeat: Ken Kesey. My high school English teacher used to drink with him at a bar in Eugene.
Everything about Powell’s City of Books. The Blue Room houses both literature and classics, and neighbors World Cup. Done deal.
Voodoo Doughnuts. Seriously, my life for a dirt doughnut right meow.
In that same vein, food carts. Especially Herb’s Mac ‘N’ Cheese, 50 Licks, and the PB&J/Grilled Cheese Grill. Best ever.
The perpetual smell of clove cigarette smoke.
People say what they mean, almost always. What constitutes “manners” in the Midwest is still foreign to me.
The Butterfinger cappuccino machine at the Ray’s in Yachats and the Stop ‘N’ Go in Albany, respectively. I would IV Butterfinger cappuccino into my veins if that were a possibility.
Chuck Palahniuk lives and breaths in Portland. There’s nothing more to say.
Etcetera, etcetera….

Things I will miss about Galesburg and Knox as soon as I fly into PDX:

Brick streets. Brick buildings. Brick everything.
The antique mall. Most recent purchase: a “Little John” ceramic toilet “cigarette set.” No, seriously, it’s a ceramic model toilet that holds a pack of cigarettes. Slogan: “to complete your bathroom and add to your comfort.”
The staircases in Old Main.
Seminary Street at night time. Especially the “Hamm’s” sign on the side of the Seminary Street Pub that promises “Fun & Romance.”
There are a few homes on Cherry Street that I would do bad, bad things for.
The Quickie now has Mountain Dew slushies. All of my love.
Thunderstorms and snow storms. Just storms, in general.
The Clint Eastwood poster in the pub office. Also, the couches in the pub office.
Everything about the Aux.
The tabbouleh from Cornucopia. If you have never had the tabbouleh from Cornucopia, stop whatever you are doing and stock pile it and be happy forever.
The Finebergs’ baklava. Best ever.
The atmosphere you achieve when you group together a collection of people who are vital and pulsing with agency. It’s a beautiful thing when someone really, truly cares about something, and I have to say, we’ve got that in spades.

thunderstorms on thursday

When people from home ask where I go to college their follow-up is typically “why the heck would you go to college THERE?” And then I have to explain how I found Knox and how much I like the atmosphere and what I’m studying and all that jazz. (This turns into a forever rant because I freaking love Knox.) I’m from Washington state where it’s beautiful and breathtaking and, quite honestly, if it wasn’t for Knox I would spend very minimal time in the Midwest. I hate humidity, summers above 75° are uncomfortable and winters under 35° are unbearable. It’s flat, there’s no saltwater and the few evergreens you see are stubby and barely hanging on.
But on a day like to day I and all the other Washington peeps on campus share knowing looks. Facebook blows up with complaints about the weather but we’re happy as clams. The rain is loud enough to hear on the windows and ceilings. The sky is a gray monotone. The air isn’t too terribly cold yet but the pinpricks of wetness are welcoming. The air is welcoming, too, and not overly windy to drive you inside. THIS is what fall is supposed to be.
I mean, yes, the ground can’t seem to absorb it fast enough so there will be more puddles than we’re used to. (Never needed rain boots until I got here.) And there aren’t enough evergreens to soften some of the harder squalls. And almost everyone is inside hiding from the wet instead of out enjoying it. Regardless, today feels like home. It’s going to be a good day.

predicaments

I am currently in the process of writing an article for TKS. I just spilled a sizeable (stupid squiggly red line is telling me this isn’t a word. But it is, it is. You don’t run my life squiggly red line.) amount of tea on my shirt. My desire to finish this article outweighs my desire not to wear tea. This is what it’s like to be an editor. Or maybe it’s what it’s like to be an editor during midterms. But alas, I am willing to blog about it? Explain my logic to me. I don’t get it either.