Sunday, April 10, 2011

Non-Traditional (Part 5) - One Foot in Journalism, One Foot in Activism - Or How Nick Alioto Made My College Days a Lot Harder

Now that I have returned to college, I have found myself in an unusual position this year. With both an interest in journalism, but also a nearly-complete lack of training, I decided to take journalism classes and write for the Southwestern College Sun. The Sun is widely considered the best two-year college newspaper in the country and one of the top two or three papers of any school there is. Max Branscomb, the advisor, is worshipped as a God Among Men in his field, and I’ll say his reputation is rightfully deserved.

I am there to relearn how to write. I know I am good at many things, but at the beginning of the year, I was rusty, rusty, rusty. Now I’m just rusty, but the improvement is something I do notice.

Also at the beginning of the year, I had to speak with Max; Lyndsay Winkley, the Editor-in-Chief; Albert Fulcher, the News Editor; and Marcela Appelhanz, the Assistant News Editor, and tell them that I was in an unusual position – a position I admit I both relished and loathed.

My desire was to both practice and retrain as a journalist. But I am also a political activist. I have been involved, am involved, and will be involved in progressive politics in the area, and none of that will change. So with one foot in journalism and one foot in activism, I had to set a few boundaries.

One of those boundaries was that I would never cover the Governing Board meetings as a journalist. As anyone here (or at my older blog, SWC Board Must Go) knows, I have never attended a GB meeting in an objective fashion. I have photographed board members, ripped publicly into them, and helped ringlead actions against them.

One of the other boundaries that I insisted on establishing was that I would not go after Nick Alioto, who was still then the Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs at SWC. He was also the dirtbag I’d pursued here, at my other blog, in person, with the press, and at every turn, to run him out of town and prove that he was the criminal that we all know him to be. I’ve even used this blog to poison his chances of future employment, and I’m happy to say that I have no intention of changing that. Fully one-third of the people that end up on the Washroom through a Google or Bing search come by searching for some version of Alioto’s name and position – either here in California or back in his home state of Wisconsin.

I set the boundary that I wouldn’t use journalism to chase Alioto, which appealed to my activist nature. I am not so hypocritical that I thought that fair. Even after he resigned a month or so into this semester, I tried not to chase him.

But every piece I wrote from then on twisted and turned and went back to the actions of Vice President Alioto. I started a small piece on a technology plan that had stalled and was going awry, and within a week determined that it had basically been sabotaged by Alioto himself. When a whistleblower unloaded information about money illegally spent, it became a story on Alioto’s decision to spend that money.

"Superintendent Shakes Up Tech Study Group" (February 22, 2011)

"Former VP Hid, Dumped Millions" (March 22, 2011)

The third story, regarding nothing more than the positive reports of an independent auditor, also twisted and turned, looped and swirled, and landed directly in the lap of Alioto himself. That one is not yet online. When it is, I’ll post it.

I remain with one foot in journalism and one foot in activism. I keep my worlds discrete and I make certain that I don’t set foot past my boundaries. I’ll be present at this week’s Governing Board meeting. I’ve got something to tell them – something that I’ll say well, thoroughly, and loud.

It won’t be as a journalist.

But as a journalist, I’ve finally decided it is okay to use my blog to showcase what I’ve written for the Sun. Feel free to comment, blast, critique, or complain. I’m good with all that.

After all, as a journalist, I wrote these for the good of the college, the district, the students, and the public. But it’s as an activist that I have no trouble whatsoever showing them to you.


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