Why I Am Leaving The Record: a Staff Writer Changes Sides – Quentin Cohan

Today is my last day at the Williams Record. After nearly one year at the newspaper–first as a contributing writer for the features section, then, after three articles, as a staff writer (yes, that’s what being a staff writer means)–I believe I have worked here long enough to know that it is not the publication for me.

Case in point: In February I pitched an article where I would interview the construction workers working on the new library to see what they think about the building. “Great!” my editors said. Unfortunately, this was not possible because it turns out the workers are contractually prevented from speaking to Williams College students. Instead I received a private tour of the library from the project manager and wrote an article detailing the ins and outs of the new building. The Record board was very upset with this new article, because it was not what they originally thought they were getting. They refused to run the article I wrote, which has now finally found a home, on this very website: http://williamsalternative.com/2014/05/19/the-birth-of-a-library-quentin-cohan/.

I was told in an email that “The Record regularly runs updates on the construction of the new library in our News section.  Your article included a lot of information that we’ve included in previous articles about the library’s construction,” but a search of the Record’s website reveals no updates have been written since September 2012, and none of the previous articles went into as much depth as mine–simply because the building was not as close to completion. I thought my article was great, and it is not like the Record has incredibly fierce competition for articles, so I do not understand why they did not print an article about one of the hottest topics on campus.

I wish I could say that this was my only issues with the Record. Sadly, it is not. Saying to perspective interviewees “I am writing an article for the Record…” has become a hinderance because of the paper’s low reputation on campus. One student I interviewed recently became angry with me during the interview over a perceived slight that had more to do with the paper’s coverage of something totally unrelated to my article than it had to do with me. Another such incident surrounds an article I was supposed to write about some professors who, rumor had it, were planning on boycotting commencement. A member of the Record editorial board gave me this piece of information, so I emailed the professors. They declined to be interviewed, saying “Our concern is that we are being brought into a story that has already been written.  Why are you assuming that we will not attend the Commencement ceremony?” I had to cancel the article. I had been thrown into the lion’s den, chewed up, and spat back out. People get angry at journalists all the time, but I am tired of it being because of my Williams Record credentials.

At the time of the Sawyer article imbroglio, my editor told me to “go rogue and start a blog.” I did not do this. I kept writing for the Record. I was upset, but I like writing and journalism, so what was I to do? To quote Humbert Humbert: You see, I had absolutely nowhere else to go.

This is no longer the case. At the Williams Alternative I see a publication which has its finger on the campus pulse. Whereas the Record seems allergic to publishing articles about major topics on campus, the Alternative has no such illness. The Alternative is by no means a flawless publication. For one, I feel it relies too much on opinion pieces instead of investigative journalism–though that seems to be a growing trend in journalism. By joining the Williams Alternative I hope to affect the conversation on campus in a way I was unable to at the Record (I applied twice to be a section editor, and was twice rejected). The Alternative stands in opposition to the oppressive political correctness that has enshrouded campus over the last few months. I do not think many people will notice my small decision, but I like to think it is symbolic of a growing shift away from stifling uniformity and towards genuine diversity. I, too, am the Williams Alternative.

– Quentin Cohan

2 thoughts on “Why I Am Leaving The Record: a Staff Writer Changes Sides – Quentin Cohan

  1. If this article is indicative at all of your abilities as a writer, I don’t think your departure from the Record is any great tragedy. Furthermore, your self-important tone and apparent closed-mindedness is hardly befitting of a newsman.

    This is by far my favorite part of this “essay” (to call it that is an insult to every English Professor at Williams): “I thought my article was great”

    also, *prospective, not perspective interviewees

  2. Tom,

    I think you may have gotten in a little over your head here as this is not a message board for comparing the sizes of our manhood. Nevertheless, since you tossed yourself into this arena, I suppose you are looking for a duel.

    Firstly, this is actually a very eloquently rendered account of this young man’s psychological transformation from wide-eyed campus journalist to cynical campus critic. Secondly, this is a large loss for the newspaper because, let’s face it, that group is not exactly a stable of Bob Woodwards being put out to stud. Cohan clearly has some sense of what’s going on at Williams, and is not afraid to speak his mind on the matter. If you’ve read anything else he’s written you’ll see that his brand of “newsmanship” is what the other publication needs.

    But hey, that’s just my thoughts. I’m gonna go stick my member in the wall and see what happens

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