Thank you and goodbye from two senior editors
By Katelyn Harrop
When I started college in 2012, I planned to spend four years working toward a form-fitting blazer at the culture desk of a major metropolitan daily. I couldn’t name three members of Congress and I thought the two-party political system was a pretty solid way to organize a nation. I spent a summer interning at a branding agency writing product press releases.
My first year of college took place at a university near New York City where I served as the arts and entertainment editor of the campus paper and was promised to have a top ranking music journalism internship by my sophomore year. I was living the dream and making incredible connections. For a myriad of reasons, I was also fucking miserable.
I manifested my angst into transfer transcripts and a one-way ticket to Ithaca, New York. I heard the hiking was good and The National had just played there, so it was probably pretty cool. Someone condescendingly told me that the people would be more accepting of my Pacific Northwest-curated wardrobe.
I knew I wanted to do something radically different from the college newspaper experience I had already pursued, so I shuffled my way to the Buzzsaw table at the fall student organization fair. “We have pretty rad covers and we deconstruct popular ideas,” a wise senior with a hip haircut told me from behind a folding table. I was intrigued.
I went to rush night and picked up a story. Little did I know that I was being introduced to what stands as the greatest influence of my young journalist career: the power of independent media.
I was hooked immediately. Within a year, I found myself on the editorial board, pitching stories alongside other Buzzsaw editors and encouraging my own writers to look at social, political and cultural issues from new and exciting perspectives while they, in turn, taught me to look at reporting and research more critically than ever before.
I’ve had the incredible opportunity to report, edit and content-develop alongside other student journalists dedicated to challenging the structures and norms that hold society’s status quo, all while proving that a horizontally-run, hierarchy-free structure can not only work, but also prove to be incredibly beneficial to the functioning of a newsroom.
In my humble mag-loving opinion, the importance of an independent media infrastructure on college campuses can not be overstressed. Magazines such as Buzzsaw, and the dozens of other awesome indy college mags I’ve seen at conferences, go beyond providing an avenue to develop journalistic pluck — they offer a platform for responsible experimentation and the exploration of complicated, intersectional questions without the potentially stifling weight of institutional oversight or perceived financial obligation.
An ethos of independence — fiscally, intellectually and politically — is the foundation of transformative journalism and has been the catalyst for the best journalists in the world such as I.F. Stone, Glenn Greenwald and other writers and reporters who continue to challenge systems of power and push for greater social responsibility.
By offering up a means to explore these ethical practices alongside motivated, passionate peers, students are given the opportunity to see media through a clean lens — one that may not be explicitly examined in many journalism classrooms.
In just a few weeks I’ll find myself profusely sweating in a navy blue robe next to scores of other graduating seniors. As I reflect on my last four years, serving as a member of the Buzzsaw magazine masthead stands as one of the single most important choices of my college career, and a catalyst for some of the most challenging and formative opportunities I’ve had as a journalist yet. I’m no longer bound for that big-city culture desk I had always imagined for myself, but I am prepared to ask tough questions, seek out challenging ideas and work to promote productive and challenging discussions through my capacity as a reporter — three passions I may not have ever found if it weren’t for my experience in college alternative media.