Things to Know Before Dating a Student Journalist

Is this romantic encounter on the record? Why is he taking notes at the frat party?  When I said I loved her, why did she tell me she needed a second source?

A new post on the site Stuff Journalists Like offers numerous pieces of advice for individuals interested in entering into a relationship with a student journalist extraordinaire.  For example, prepare to be quoted.  As the post warns, “Since you are a part of our lives and we spend so much time with you, chances are at one point or another you will say something that catches our attention more than normal, and we will quote you in an article or homework assignment. Don’t be upset or embarrassed, be flattered.”

Four items I’d add to the list to ensure successful student journalist dating:

KNOW ABOUT THE WORLD. Unlike most teens and early twenty-somethings, j-students actually keep up with local and global current events– by choice and due to occasional weekly quizzes. So read the campus newspaper and New York Times online.

If you really want to impress, check out the latest journalism news on Poynter’s Romenesko. And be prepared to respond to questions such, “What do you think of Obama’s interest in providing India a permanent seat on the UN Security Council?” or “So, that Keith Olbermann suspension, that was something, huh?”

READ THEIR WORK.  Journalists are vulnerable creatures. Even as students write more and learn to steel themselves from negative feedback, it still hurts when their pieces are forgotten or criticized by those they love the most.

So even if the two-page special report on animal laboratory testing procedures on campus does not interest you or is laid out sloppier than Drudge Report, read it all, make a point to talk about it, and find at least a few nice things to say.

Worst mistake: Don’t tell your j-student date you really like that “writing stuff” he or she does. That’s a one-way ticket to singledom.

EXPECT LAST-MINUTE CANCELLATIONS and late nights away. Student journalists’ schedules need to be flexible. Midnight info gathering scavenger hunts and newsroom sleepovers are part of the semester routine.

So if your j-student significant other apologizes for missing dinner on short notice because he had to stake out the student government meeting due to an alleged scheme involving secret payoffs to the activities committee chair, show some faith. Now of course, if he has lipstick on his collar or if she smells like your roommate’s cologne while saying it, I’d start fact-checking.

AVOID STEREOTYPICAL GIFTS. Student journalists get it. They’re the writing people. That doesn’t mean they want gold, hand-carved, scented pens engraved with their full names, including middle initial. Not every birthday, holiday, and anniversary gift has to be related to journalism or writing.

During my undergraduate days, I received at least a half dozen copies of Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul and Paula LaRocque’s Championship Writing.

The most memorable gift: For Christmas during my senior year, my girlfriend gave me a special clear glass frame encasing an article I wrote for the local paper. The frame sported some sort of space-age technology that ensured the newspaper cut-out would never shrivel or yellow.

It was extremely sweet, but it represented a naivete held by many non-journalists: Every story we write is not the same. The piece she selected for this Walt Disney cryogenic freeze-framing happened to be a page five 10-incher on a local fire marshal’s parade.

I made the mistake of not hanging it up. My girlfriend demanded to know why. As I told her, “You don’t understand. It’s not a story worth hanging in my doorway for everyone to see. I want that story to yellow.”  She broke up with me weeks later. Indirectly, I still blame the fire marshal. :-)

3 Responses to “Things to Know Before Dating a Student Journalist”
  1. Michele says:

    So true on the gifts! I love pens, but unless it’s sparkly and talks, sings or has a Geico-like creature on the top… it’s really not worth being added to my overflowing collection.

    I ruined countless relationships during my time as a college EIC. I’d spend a late night in the newsroom on final proof and my boyfriend would think I was cheating. With the copy editor who doesn’t bathe? No way.

    Making it work with a college journo is more than just understanding what they do, but why they do it.

    (I do actually own a Geico pen that talks, it’s super awesome.)

  2. Cian says:

    Brilliant article loved it well done.

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