Oberlin Blogs

Doing the Layout

November 25, 2008

John West ’10

The contents spread for last semester's issue of Wilder Voice, a creative nonfiction/long-form journalism magazine here at Oberlin.

There's something to be said for a small liberal-arts college in a backwater hamlet a charming slice of small-town America that has two newspapers. And there's something more to be said a college that has two newspapers (The Oberlin Review, The Oberlin Grape--for which I am a copy editor), three non-fiction magazines (Wilder Voice, Vox, In Solidarity), a literary journal (formerly The Plum Creek Review, formerly Enchiridion, now The Plum Creek Review--again), a genre-fiction magazine (Spiral) and doesn't have a journalism department.

Also, I'm absolutely certain I'm forgetting some of them. (For example, I think OSCA--the Oberlin College Cooperative Association--prints a magazine, but, as I don't live in a coop, I don't get a chance to read it all that often)

It's a little weird, I think, that we have so many student publications and so few classes dedicated to journalism. Of course, we have The Rhetoric and Composition Department, whose portfolio is as vague as its name suggests. It does offer a few journalism classes, but you can't major in it, and there's no plotted-out concentration for it.

We are, in short, a journalism-obsessed campus with no journalism majors.

There is, of course, another way of looking at this situation. From a glass-half-full perspective (a perspective no doubt appreciated by my Communications Department masters), the vibrant and flourishing journalism scene--in spite of a serious department--is a testament to both the strength of the writing here at Oberlin and our can-do attitude.

Yes, we Oberliners have pluck.

None of this is to say that journalistic endeavors on campus go without support. Quite the contrary. Editors at both of the major newspapers get paid (not enough, cough, cough). And as magazines and newspapers have proliferated here on campus over the last four years, I've seen the budgeters take it in stride, providing adequate funding for all of them. And, though I can't speak for all of the magazines here on campus, Wilder Voice, a publication for which I am the managing editor, has received nothing but support and generosity from the administration and governance bodies.

I don't have an elegant way of finishing up this post, so I'm thinking I'll just end it now.

UPDATE: Fellow blogger, and a professor here at Oberlin, David Walker makes several excellent points in a post that is like mine, just written better and before mine. He writes:

Prospective students interested in journalism often wonder about the advisibility of coming to Oberlin, where we teach no formal journalism courses. Wouldn't they be better off, they ask, going someplace like Northwestern or UNC, where they could take focused, pre-professional courses as a journalism major? The journalists I know say just the opposite, in fact: that a broad-based liberal arts education that trains you to think seriously and creatively, and exposes you to ideas and approaches across a range of disciplines, is much better preparation for a career that will undoubtedly take unexpected turns. A major in English, or history, or politics, or neuroscience--virtually any field, really--will train you in skills of analysis and communication that will be useful no matter what career path you follow. The specific technical skills needed in journalism can then be acquired easily in a graduate program or internships, or through on-the-job experience.

He also put together an impressive list of Oberlin grads turned professional journalists. It seems that the lack of an outright department hasn't stopped Obies from taking the publishing world by storm.

Damn, we're good.

Similar Blog Entries