ON TOPIC, OFF-CAMPUS: Reflecting on my time with the Augie journalism department

As I end my tenure as the Opinions Editor for The Augustana Mirror, I have had the opportunity to reflect on my time with the campus newspaper.

It wasn’t until halfway through my sophomore year at Augustana that I adopted my journalism major.

Two years later, and not a day goes by where I’m not grateful for the lessons, knowledge and friendships that the journalism department has blessed me with.

I have been able to speak with Putlizer Prize winning reporters, have my stories published and shared, debated contentious ethical issues and sharpened my writing, research and critical thinking skills. More importantly, I have become more empathetic towards friends and strangers alike. I have seen the importance of protecting speech that I disagree with —  abhor even. I have even gotten into a class-wide heated debate about whether Fruit Gushers should be considered a delicacy.

The people in the journalism department are some of the greatest people on Augustana’s campus.

The angel known as Janet Blank-Libra is always ready with encouragement and affirmation when you need a break from the grating, emotionally draining experience that is college. She is also not afraid to give you some side-eye — perfectly encapsulating the “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed” look — when she knows you’ve severely procrastinated your journalism thesis that you had the whole semester to work on (I’m sorry, Janet.)

Known for his obsession with the color purple, Jeffrey Miller — adviser to this wonderful paper — is a force to be reckoned with. With a witty or sarcastic comeback always at the ready, Jeffrey’s comments are often the source of raucous laughter and tweets. However, for anyone thinking they may be able to take advantage of his up-and-coming journalists, simply because they happen to be college students, had better be prepared for the well-reasoned, evidence-supported, eloquently-spoken wrath of Jeffrey Miller.

The instructors that the journalism department employs to give students access to people with decades of real-world experience are a special treat for Augie journos. One of these instructors, Jon Walker, is perhaps the most wholesome human being I have ever met. He is the kind of guy to bring his wife to class just because he loves her and likes being with her. You can run into Jon Walker anywhere and end up having an hour-long chat with him about anything under the sun.

My fellow editors at The Mirror are perhaps the unsung heroes of the journalism department. They are constantly working to bring stories of interest and importance to the attention of their fellow Augie students. There have been nights where we’ve been in The Mirror office until 4:30 a.m. putting the paper together so it’s ready for you — free of cost — on Friday morning.

So please, even with all of the negativity you hear about “the media,” consider showing support to the students who are tirelessly working to defend your right to free speech and access to information that might otherwise be kept hidden from you.

Just a few clicks on the links in your weekly Mirror Compact, sharing a good story on your social media, buying a Mirror T-shirt or bringing a staff member a Starbucks drink on Thursday morning can make all the difference.

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