By Gabriela Flores and Michela Arlia
Before The Presses, an informal column shared between us, Gabriela Flores and Michela Arlia, now comes to an end. We are the last two writers who entered The Vanguard as freshmen back in 2019, when the paper was re-established. Previously there were two competing student-led publications at Brooklyn College: Excelsior and Kingsmen. After battling it out for years, they decided to join forces and merge, borrowing “The Vanguard” name from the legendary paper that was shut down in 1950 by the college’s former president, Dr. Harry D. Gideonse.
The reporters back then did what any reporter should do: tell the truth. After sharing with their fellow students how Gideonse – who was later discovered to be a FBI informant while at the college – vetoed a history professor from becoming department chair, The Vanguard staff was retaliated against.
Gideonse shut down the paper by changing the office’s locks, revoking the paper’s charter, suspending its top five editors and business manager, and placing another 50 students on probation, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Do you know what the student journalists did next? Make their own newspaper called Draugnav, or “Vanguard” spelled backwards.
Talk about sticking it to the man, huh?
Today, remembering the legacy and importance of The Vanguard, we’re now here to thank student journalism for giving us the space to bond and grow stronger.
Before taking the reins as editor-in-chief, I, Gabriela, was like many of you who mentioned they’re intimidated about the idea of writing for a publication.Words in print have more weight and pressure, for both the writer and those they hold accountable. It is, however, empowering to see how much you can do as a budding reporter and thinker in a space that’s meant to help you learn. The Vanguard is open to Brooklyn College students who have an interest in student reporting.
It is meant to give curious people a chance to learn, pick up tips from their peers, and become the published writers, photographers, and reporters they perhaps did not initially envision themselves being. Admittedly, it took a long time for me to see this.
In my first two years reporting, I had to work past my intense worries, anxiety jitters, and doubts about being able to make it in the journalism scene. I was occasionally bogged down by the paper’s weekly deadlines and the hard truth that in the “real world,” deadlines will be even tighter. Despite it all, I kept at it.
What I learned while reporting is that you have to have confidence in yourself in every sense of the word. Life is incredibly short for you not to take on that internship, or make that cross-country move, or ask out the cutie you’ve been eyeing in between classes or over Zoom. Mute the internal worries that keep you from pursuing what you truly hope for, whether it be journalism or otherwise.
Through editing, I learned that you have to be straightforward yet understanding of people who may not get it right on a couple of tries. We’ve all struggled before. At a student-led paper, you can be sure to find people who were or are in similar circumstances as you.
What I learned by writing thoughts and research that would go into print is that the truth will prevail. Don’t blame Fox News, CNN, and the TikTokers for ruining how our information about worldly, significant topics disseminates. Assume the responsibility of being a thinker who is curious and attentive enough to realize when they are given the facts versus a warped picture.
No matter where your passion lies, prioritize what will make you grow into the person you want to be and face head-on the hurdles it may entail.
Now, I pass the mic to Michela…
By being a student journalist in college, I have learned one important lesson – how to be a journalist. I know this may sound very odd, considering my writing to you now as the managing editor of a campus-wide paper, but I am the most far removed from journalism studies possible.
I double majored in psychology and theater, and used my strengths as an essay writer and word painter to make my way to where I am now. I started out with novice writing skills and a simple passion for journalism. I think I have worked my way up that ladder to be considered proficient by now at the very least. I have learned you don’t need to be in journalism to be a journalist, and that is something I will continuously advocate for.
As I learned the ropes by being thrown in head first, I came to understand that what I have to say may not always be important, but making sure that the words I write on behalf of others reflect what they want to say is the key to doing this job right.
Please don’t be shy. Get yourself out there and don’t be afraid to ask questions, because I learned that the best thing you can do is ask. The worst you’ll get in response is a no.
Know that your voice matters, even if you are just a student reporting. You are the messenger between an important event or topic and the people that need to know about it. Not to mention, print journalism isn’t dead, give it a second chance! You can develop your best skills just by putting in a short piece every week.
Just this past two weeks, we were able to see new faces at The Vanguard, the potential next generation of writers, reporters, and editors. I have never been happier in knowing that there will be more after we graduate, for the fears of the campus paper lingering away have gotten the best of me at times. Please get more involved, even if it’s to take a photo, or just stop by, say hi, and ask what it is you can do.
One takeaway I would offer you as budding student journos is this – know that your writing is your superpower. Should there be an issue worth addressing, an event that needs coverage, or even a professor worth calling out, you have the power and the tools to shed light.
And lastly, don’t be afraid to take risks, and maybe even get into a bit of trouble (but not too much trouble) with those risks.
In closing, thank you to The Vanguard and student journalism for helping us to become who we are today. To those who are reading and have an interest in joining – do it. Develop your chops now that you have the chance and take the risk of trying something new that will ultimately help you evolve.