One of the first lessons aspiring journalists are taught is that we should avoid clichés in our writing. Later, we also learn that it is OK to break the rules when there is a really good reason to do so. I hope my old SFA journalism professors would agree this qualifies. You see, I have been trying to resist the urge to write that my professional life has “come full circle.” However, despite earnest effort, I can think of no better way to describe the past two years serving as advisor to The Pine Log student newspaper.
In the early 1990s, I wandered into the musty, windowless headquarters of The Pine Log, which was wedged in a corner of the basement of the student center back in those days. The visit came shortly after I had naively applied for a summer internship at the local paper where a well-meaning (but direct) publisher asked me the obvious question — "Why don’t you try writing for the student newspaper and then check back with me after you have some experience?"
I vividly recall nervously meeting with The Pine Log’s student editor-in-chief and trying to sound much more confident in my writing and copy editing abilities than I actually felt. Somehow, I convinced her to hire me. And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the trajectory of my career was set that very day, although I surely didn’t realize it at the time. There is no question that the life-changing experience I gained and the lifelong relationships I forged as a student working at The Pine Log not only led to me getting that internship the very next summer but also to every career stepping stone that has followed.
For the past two years, I have had the privilege and joy to be back at The Pine Log working with SFA student journalists every day. It is a pleasure getting to know them as individuals, helping them reach their personal and professional goals and counseling them through the inevitable bumps in the road, to use another cliché. (I’m on a roll.)
The Pine Log is a learning environment. We welcome the involvement of students at all levels of their journalistic development, from the shy underclassman who hesitantly pokes his head in the door in search of realworld experience to the confident senior editor who is ready to graduate and take on greater challenges in the professional world. I understand and care about both extremes — and all Pine Loggers in between — because I have walked in all of their shoes. (There I go again.)
Witnessing this transformation and, hopefully, helping our students along their journey of personal and academic discovery has been the most rewarding work of my professional life.
One of my favorite traditions here at The Pine Log involves graduating staff members posting goodbye notes on a large white board we have mounted on the wall in the production room. The notes are as unique as the students who write them and range from tear jerking to hilarious, sometimes managing to pull off both at the same time. But one thing all these parting messages have in common is an affirmation that working for The Pine Log was one of the most challenging and transformative experiences of their lives so far. I know exactly how they feel. Full circle, indeed.