the paper sits down and gets real with one of its alumni.
By Lauren Duca
How did your time at the paper prepared you for your career as a journalist?
Writing for the paper is the thing that made me decide to be a journalist. When I got to Fordham, I knew I wanted to push nouns and verbs together, but I didn’t have any idea what would look like besides fantasizing about publishing a book someday. It didn’t take long for me to be seduced by the undeniable pull of that windowless print shoppe in the basement of McGinley. Just kidding, I met the paper kids at the club fair. I remember walking around Eddy’s and grabbing flyers from everyone who offered. At one point, my roommate said, “OK, put down that sailing club brochure right now — it’s getting to be a bit much.” It was as if I was grabbing lottery tickets for which future self I would go on to be. I picked writing about culture.
During my first semester at Rose Hill, I started working on op-eds and personal essays for the paper. That’s where I first found my voice as a journalist. the paper taught me that I need to write things that are true, and that the most effective way to do that is often through personal stories. (It also set the irreverent tone of my current work, partly because I was allowed to curse while doing all of that —- sorry, mom and dad.)
What advice would you give to young people who aren’t sure how to get involved in politics?
In “How to Start a Revolution,” I unpack the political industrial complex as a source of alienation, especially among young people. If you feel disconnected from politics, please know you’re not alone. Youth demographics are systematically boxed out of the conversation, and then chastised for not showing up. In short, the political process is intimidating, and that’s by design. They want to scapegoat us for “not caring,” but that’s total fucking bullshit. We’re not apathetic, we’re alienated.
Now, the reality of our current government system (*cough* oligarchy *cough*) is that our voices are “statistically non-significant” — as one study from Princeton and Northwestern found — but individual action is required for collective power. My goal with this book is burning down the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and replacing it with equality (a.k.a. true democracy). This is an undeniably optimistic goal, but I believe that I have proven it is possible through a youth-led movement toward personal political agency.
It is through a combined commitment to the collective that we will build equitable public power. That requires each and every one of us to commit to active citizenship. I had to be smacked in this realization when Trump won, but, it turns out, government by and for the people requires our input.
Democracy isn’t a thing we have, it’s a thing we DO. Now, the most fundamental piece of active citizenship is, of course, voting. Please vote, y’all. Get yourself registered, and make a commitment to vote in every election you are eligible to participate in — especially local ones. Get your friends registered and voting. Hit up all your text threads, and make everyone promise to hold each other accountable to actually fucking goddamn voting.
That said, voting is just the most basic, transactional mode of citizenship. Beyond that, you need to build out a specific ritual of civic habits, big and small, that you incorporate into your routine — not unlike brushing your teeth.
Now, the options here are kind of limitless. Raising your voice can look like contacting elected officials, protesting, volunteering, donating, attending town halls, or a million other methods for translating your political opinions into action. I think the best place to start is by moving from the issues you care about the most, ideally at the local level. What are some ways your immediate community could be improved? What’s that one thing that you wish someone else would change — can you be part of making that happen?
You have to pick the democratic ritual that works for you. It’s kind of like getting in shape. If you wanted to get fit, you’d probably think about the best possible kind of work out for your body, what kind of movement activities most resonate you (maybe you’re looking for mindfulness and flexibility, so you try hot yoga; maybe you’re a blatantly a psychopath, so you start doing CrossFit). After you picked what type of workout most speaks to you, you’d figure out when you had regular free time to commit to fitting that work out in. Sometimes you’d hate working out, and, yeah, you’d have to skip it every once in a while because of other obligations (some of which may or may not involve eating peanut butter with a spoon). Still, you’d try your best to do it as often as possible. Doing democracy is a lot like getting fit. As often as you can, commit to flexing the muscle of active citizenship.
No matter who you are, or what your current experience is with politics, it is never too late to raise your voice: You have a right and a duty to participate in the political conversation. Insist on it.
What are some of your favorite memories from Fordham / the paper?
Real talk, y’all: I had a rough time at Fordham. I was struggling with an eating disorder and depression, both of which I routinely attempted to drown in Blue Raspberry UV vodka. I got away with being such a hot mess because I miraculously managed to also get good grades despite soaking my brain in booze. (Freshman year, I woke up blacked out in St. Barnabas and also made the dean’s list.)
the paper is a thing that helped keep me sane, and partly because it helped me get to know so many different types of people at Fordham. At a time when I was clueless as to who the fuck I was, I felt most myself as I typed out my latest article. At a time when I hated myself so much that I was regularly making myself puke, I was sure I was good at one thing, and it was the words on the pages of the paper.
So, yeah, that, or maybe the time we did a cover with McShane’s face Photoshopped onto “The Dark Knight Rises” poster.
What is the process like for writing a book? How long does it take, what does a day look like when you’re writing, etc.?
I worked on “How to Start a Revolution” for close to three years. The hardest part was figuring out how such a massive project was going to become a cohesive whole. Even after I had a ton of research and reporting under my belt, I was worried it wouldn’t come together into, well, a book. I felt like “The Little Mermaid” for a minute, you know, “Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?!”
To that end, every day was different. I’m a freelance journalist focusing on building equitable public power by getting as many young people invested in the political process as possible. Sometimes that meant writing op-eds — at the time I was working on my Thigh-High Politics column for Teen Vogue. I would often travel to high schools and colleges to speak to students, or interview activists and political candidates (I interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez two weeks before she won the primary, and David and Lauren Hogg, after they led a sea change in the national conversation on gun reform). I spent a lot of time squinting at a Google doc in total fucking agony, just drinking another cup of coffee for no reason.
It all came together in the end, though!
What advice would you give college-aged people who want to pursue a career in writing?
I meet a lot of college students who ask me for writing advice. The problem is usually that they haven’t started writing.
When it comes to a writing career — or political participation, for that matter — no one is going to come around and knight you. So, my advice is this: Write. Write for the paper! Try your hand at freelancing. At the very least, regularly come up with ideas, and execute them. Always, always, always, be doing the damn thing.
How has your experience as a journalist made you more aware of the current social and political problems in America?
Yes, and I’m learning all the time. We’re all more hard-wired with the script of the status quo than we even realize. Unlearning the patterns and stories of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy requires us all to be actively evolving all the time.
During your time at Fordham, what were some hot-button issues you had the chance to deal with while on the paper?
The biggest hot-button issue was my own goddamn feminism. I come from a Roman-Catholic authoritarian upbringing, and that meant I showed up at Fordham with a lot to learn. I have one particularly cringe-y memory of a telling a cute guy that I was not a feminist. Something about “women’s rights, buts.”
Obviously, things have changed. I now understand that feminism is about essential equality. The goal of “How to Start a Revolution” is building equitable public power, and I believe that is necessarily a feminist issue.
It took me a while to get there, and the journey started with writing for the paper. As I wrote about being cat-called on Fordham road, the bizarre double standard of same-sex hookups, or being treated differently because of the size of my boobs (that one was called “Making the Breast of It.”)
How has the “fake news” culture that is often antagonistic towards journalism affected your career? What can a journalist today do when their work is stonewalled by accusations of “fake news?”
I get a lot of harassment by people who are media illiterate and have been brainwashed by the concept of “fake news” as peddled by Fox News and the President.
There are actual fake news sites, but the bigger problem is the concept of fake news, which has misled many members of the public to believe that journalists are actively working to manipulate them. Left unchecked, this misconception has the power to totally erode the forces of democracy.
I think the most essential thing we can do is journalists is to explain our purpose. As journalists, our utmost allegiance is to citizens. It is crucial that we remind people of that by demonstrating objectivity of method with radical transparency for all editorial decision-making.
What advice do you have for writers coming from alternative publications, like the paper or Teen Vogue, who can sometimes be discredited because their publications aren’t taken as seriously?
If you are writing things that are true with the goal of empowering people with information, your work is serious journalism. Period. Mainstream respectability is not a requirement for speaking truth to power. Get used to telling gatekeepers to fuck off.
Image Source: QZ.com.