Tuesday, December 14, 2010

College Days On The Brain



This morning while perusing The New York Times, the dateline for a report on page A20 -- Mankato, Minn. -- jumped off the paper.

Mankato was home for my latter teen years and early 20s, and the site on the brain when the song "I Wish I Could Go Back To College" is performed in "Avenue Q" (for clarity: I usually don't wish I could go back to college, but Minnesota State University-Mankato was a pretty darn good place to attend classes).

It's not often this little town, where Silica Gel is produced* to delight owners of new luggage, gets some ink or Internet space in a national news outlet.
Also known as the "big city" portrayed in "Little House On The Prairie," Mankato is an hour southwest of Minneapolis. And yes, Walnut Grove is real and not far from Mankato. Bravo, Mankato, for the limelight!

Today's report in The Gray Lady describes an event from 148 years ago that may get some more media play for an upcoming sesquicentennial of the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

I will let the article by Robert K. Elder speak for itself, but you can imagine my surprise and delight to read a quote in the report, showcasing the expertise of one of my college English professors, Gwen Westerman. My file cabinet holds many pages of terrible late-night writing dated 1992, each covered with Westerman's handwriting and proofreader marks (see how I just used her last name, a la AP Style -- she might have suggested I just use 'Gwen' for this pseudo-journalism blog that is more an exercise in would-be creative writing).

So cool to see her name in The New York Times!

With thanks for her influence and good works, Gwen was the third in a series of influential creative writers, following Honors English teacher Saxon Vandagriff at Edmond High School, and Keith Sell in English 101 at Mankato, who taught me a great deal about writing before "things clicked" junior year and I pursued a journalism degree with the fine MSU Mass Communications Department.

Of course, after two years of "reporting" for the campus newspaper, journalism's "dark side" lured me away to a career in public relations, which I love, but not without the occasional "grass is greener" allure of a news room (for the record, more than one MSU classmate has since inquired about the greener pastures on the dark side).

By chance, a newsy friend at Atlanta's NPR affiliate WABE-FM today forwarded a timely video titled "So You Want To Be A Journalist," portraying a recent J-School graduate networking for a job. Hilarious!

What made the video all the funnier for me personally was that I hung out at Columbia Journalism School (referenced in the video) during a Manhattan apartment-sitting gig in 1996, pondering graduate school options. Also explored Syracuse University options before landing the first P.R. job back in Atlanta. Those were the days.

Who knows, maybe the recent grad in the video has some Mankato ties, too.
Photo of "journalist" via Xtranormal. Image of Mankato via The New York Times courtesy The Minnesota Historical Society.
*Technically, silica is produced in nearby Kasota, Minn., also of LeSeur Co., home of The Green Giant and the best peas in the world.

1 comment:

Gwen said...

Thanks for the shoutout, Nick! My daughter found the link for your blog post and called to tell me "some former student" had written about the NYT article. As soon as she tried to pronounce your name, I launched into which class you were in, and how you went to Atlanta to write about the Olympic games. :)

Glad you are doing well and that you cite your sources correctly. And very happy to know I helped make a difference in your writing. gw

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