"I have never written for a column before, you sure you want to ask me?"
That is what I thought to myself when I was asked if I would be interested in writing a bi-weekly column for The Daily Targum. I was told that if I was opinionated and able to write up to 800 words on a subject cohesively and intelligently, I would be able to write a column.
I told the person asking me, well you can stop right there, because I am very opinionated. Everything else just sort of fell into place. After two semesters of contributing, I feel like I have something cohesive and intelligent to speak on the matter of column writing: Do it.
Apparently in advertising one of the best ways to get people to read your articles is to write in lists. So, here are three reasons why you, the reader, should - no, need - to participate in independent student journalism.
1. You become a better writer
The clearest way I can demonstrate this is if one were to peruse my articles over the last academic year. I look back through my old drafts and I can tell you "BALLARO: Investigating unknowns of Deiner Park" and "BALLARO: New Brunswick's revitalization does not aid impoverished communities" are two very different articles.
If you sit down every two weeks for a semester to write to your peers about something you think is interesting, you are inevitably going to get better at doing it. No one ever got better as a writer by not putting their pen to paper, fingers to keyboard in my case.
While my core message was the same, my voice and opinion became so much louder and clearer with time. If that is something you are looking for, to have a stronger voice, to put out what you think matters in the world, you need to be a columnist.
2. You become a better listener
Sometimes I would joke with myself that my process for writing an article was looking out for the next thing to complain about. I thought it was going to be hard at first to find something that was worth talking about.
But when I opened ears, whether I was on an LX bus or in the New Brunswick town hall, I realized I was not looking for problems. Instead, problems were looking for me, begging to be told about.
Parks with dark corporate secrets, bus abolition, super gonorrhea, dining halls on fire, socks on doors and children being sent to toxic waste dumps.
How could someone not talk about these things?
When I stopped looking and started listening to what people had to say, I learned so much more about the community I lived in than I had ever in the past.
If you are looking for that, you should definitely be a columnist.
3. You become a better person
I know this is cliché and a tad twee, but it is true.
Before embarking on this journey of opinionated column-writing, I felt like I was a person with a lot of bark and no bite.
It was one thing for me to call myself an advocate for change, but it was another to change my advocacy and actually do something about it.
None of this is meant to pat myself on the back. When I started using my platform to give voices for the people who could not speak, I felt like I was making change for once.
When I finally was not just handing out free condoms to strangers or glazing over protest posters, but saw first-years pinning copies of my article on their door decorations, I felt like people were listening to what I had to say.
When I was not just talking in cloistered residence halls but marching on New Brunswick's cracked streets for children to not be forced to learn in a warehouse, I felt like I was doing something that mattered.
After three years in my time at Rutgers, I finally felt like less of a transient tourist in New Brunswick and more like a committed community member.
This is not to say that any small acts of advocacy are not important in their own right, but when I started writing and I started doing, I found meaning in this great sea of confusion called college. A reason to wake up the next day and do it all over again even when doing the right thing was not the easy thing.
No matter how small the topic, if you care about it, you should write about it. Make your voice heard!
In the end, if you are not the one to talk about the talk-less topic, who will?
Anthony Ballaro is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in classics and public health. His column, "Thoughts from the LX," runs on alternate Thursdays.
*Columns,cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
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