Journey Bailey played football for years and, after one concussion too many, came to in a hospital bed with a subdural hematoma. In his searing essay, Bailey writes about a football culture that kept him from revealing his symptoms to coaches who downplayed the seriousness of concussions. The power of Bailey’s writing comes from his voice. He’s a football player talking to other football players. He’s not a doctor or a concerned parent or an aging former athlete. He’s a a guy who speaks the language of locker rooms and long school-bus rides to away games. “[T]he next time you’re out on that field pushing for that first down or tackling that running back and you start to see stars, feel dizzy, or develop a headache that won’t go away, don’t ignore the signs in order to stay in the game,” he urges his fellow players. “Think about having tubes shoved down your penis. Think about having dents in your head. Think about crying yourself to sleep while trying to decide whether or not to buy a shotgun off of Craigslist and blow your brains out.”
This week, Wesleyan University administrators banned social events at a fraternity through the end of 2015. This rule came some months after the school decreed that all recognized fraternities must become co-educational within the next three years. Wesleyan administrators say they are acting in an effort to reduce the number of campus sexual assaults: “any campus-based organization that has sponsored events that create conditions with a higher risk of violence, including sexual assault, also will be held accountable.”
In an essay he wrote about leaving his fraternity, Wesleyan University senior Scott Ellman considered his school’s sexualized culture and his own discomfort within it: “I’d only recently begun to consider my complicity as a fraternity brother in the greater context of sexual violence in the American higher education system and how its corresponding language is deployed on college campuses across the country.”
Scott Ellman | Mic | July 11, 2014 | 13 minutes (3,238 words)
Journalists select profile subjects for any number of reasons. The person could be famous or newsworthy or simply serve as the face of a big, complex issue. Other times, they are just characters the community at large should know about. Those are the hardest ones to write because the writer has to hang the story on the individual instead of a news event or issue. And if the subject is not immediately likable, the writer has to work even harder to find the reader a way into the story. In his profile of a nontraditional student at George Mason University, writer Hau Chu does not try to make his subject, Ray Niederhausen, sound like anything other than he is: a 37-year-old undergraduate working to overcome a lifetime of addiction and bad choices.
Hau Chu | Fourth Estate | 13 minutes (3,184 words)
Regular readers of a particular magazine can usually pick up on that publication’s voice. Articles sound like Cosmo or the New Yorker or Saveur and we read them because we like articles that sound that way. We like the voice. Professional writers learn to tailor stories to a specific magazine and journalism students practice writing stories that sound like they could be published in the titles they love and admire. R.J. Vogt’s profile of an aging Medal of Honor winner draws the best of Esquire‘s voice, ruminating on age and death and masculinity and heroism. It is, like all good magazine articles, about something bigger than the initial storyline.
R.J. Vogt | Medal of Honor Project | July 29, 2014 | 10 minutes (2,598 words)
In her story about a tiny church for locals in a student neighborhood in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Megan Cassella merges the best of traditional journalism with the tools of today. Her narrative parallels a Sunday service, built on the familiar structural lessons of strong feature writing. She published the story on Creatavist, a publishing platform that allows journalists to create lush-looking multimedia pieces with limited technical resources. Cassella doesn’t use a ton of multimedia in the piece, but the strong photos and musical interlude complement her narrative without detracting from it.
Social media allows us to be passive activists, liking and hash tagging our way to political ideologies or social justice. On college campuses, Twitter campaigns flourish while forums and sit-ins languish. Writing for the Harvard Political Review last month, Gram Slattery reported on the intersection of old activism and new media via Divest Harvard, a student group that wants the university to stop investing in fossil fuels. Divest Harvard had significant media coverage, but few members. Slattery, a wary observer, spent months with the group wondering how they could possibly achieve their goals given the “small-ball, meetings-on-meetings cycle that wastes many modern activist causes on campus.” By the time Divest members try to blockade a building in the pouring rain you’re cheering not only their cause, but their willingness to go outside and stand up for their beliefs in the most analog of ways.
Gram Slattery | Harvard Political Review | September 2, 2014 | 20 minutes (4,935 words)
Readers and writers love a good true-crime story. There’s plenty of intrigue and suspense and enough intimate details to give the audience a good shiver. Stories about crime victims, however, are more difficult to report and write. Readers don’t want to pity the victim of a crime as much as cheer her on. The reporter can’t ignore the details of the crime, but can’t weigh a story down with them, either. The journalist must get close to the subject to tell a good, true story while also maintaining professional boundaries and trying to be a human being first and reporter second. It’s a most uncomfortable assignment. During eight months of reporting about the life of a student whose father murdered her mother, Kathryn Varn did a lot of things right. The result is a compelling read about a young woman moving forward and carrying her burden along the way.
Kathryn Varn | The Alligator | October 17, 2014 | 8.5 minutes (2,126 words)
College students do most things in excess. They sleep for hours and hours, or not at all. They skip meals during the day only to eat a pizza at midnight. They put off studying until they must cram. Drinking is no different. The goal is not to sip and savor but to gulp and turn up. In a college environment, it’s newsworthy, then, for people not to participate in that lifestyle. University of Pennsylvania student Manola Gonzalez found a range of sources to talk to about their drinking habits. Some don’t drink at all. Others waited till they were legal and then drank only a little. The reporter found a range of approaches to alcohol at Penn and included many points of view in her reporting, which was thorough. The article’s glaring flaw — the number of anonymous sources — also provides an unexpected takeaway: Is not drinking in college so socially crippling that students don’t want to be identified as non-drinkers?
Manola Gonzalez | 34th St. | October 2, 2014 | 6 minutes (1,441 words)
Introductory news writing classes teach journalism students the pure fundamentals. Facts, not assertions. Don’t take sides. When you begin to understand the rules and know how to use them, that’s when you can break them. Journalists can use their reporting to advocate with the power of a publication behind them. This week, student journalists at the Michigan Daily are not only covering the decision to keep quarterback Shane Morris in a football game following a horrific hit and subsequent concussion, but also challenging the University of Michigan’s athletic department leadership. The students who write for the paper are outraged and disgusted and are using the weight of the Michigan Daily to seek change. Their continuing coverage is sharp, unrelenting, and impassioned – just like college football.
Staff of The Michigan Daily | University of Michigan
For a college newspaper, there is practically no more sensational story than alleged sexual misconduct by a professor. Such a situation at the University of Delaware has all the ingredients of a great drama: a lopsided power dynamic, quid pro quo, and pleading e-mails. But to senior Cady Zuvich’s credit, she reports a tempered, straight story based on good sources and documents. The university was quick to accuse Zuvich of “errors of fact and misrepresentations,” a red flag to journalists that a story is solid.