College Media Geeks: Kavahn Mansouri, Webster University

Editor’s note: For many in college media, the end of the fall semester represents a break from the classroom and the newsroom. But for at least one editor in chief, December meant graduation and handing over the reins.

Kavahn Mansouri is the outgoing editor in chief of The Journal at Webster University in suburban St. Louis. During his time in college media, he has been the EIC of two newspapers, also leading the way for The Montage at St. Louis Community College – Meramec. He recently looked back on his time spent as a student journalist.

The curtain has closed.

I went to the hastily thrown together December graduation ceremony, I passed the editor in chief reins to my managing editor and put my last issue of The Journal to bed. After six and a half years (sigh) my time as a student journalist has come to a close.

It has been, by far, the best era of my life.

Kavahn Mansouri

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Work worth doing. I’ve always thought that journalism, and specifically student journalism, is just that. Something we can all get behind. Something that makes for the best and strangest teams. Something that takes the data miners, sports jocks, theatre kids, bookworms, nerds, perfect students, awful students (ahem), video gamers, illustrators, hipsters and whatever other cliche you can imagine, and throws them into a small room with a dozen some odd computers and demands they “get to work.”

That is what student journalism is to me. Doing work worth doing with a band of ragtag misfits in a small room, putting out something we could be proud of. It, to me, was also the only reason I stumbled through college and something that any inquisitive mind should experience.

I’ve never been good at anything but being a reporter. Sometimes, I even struggle with that. But I think, even in the smallest of newsrooms, you would be hard pressed to spend six and a half years working at a craft and not come out at least somewhat skilled at your profession.

And yes, I am aware that six and a half years is a long time to be in college. But I did it, and I spent that entire time being a student journalist and working in two newsrooms. It made this long run at college the best years of my life.

In those newsrooms I reported crazier stories than I thought I could, fell in love (twice), mourned, celebrated victories and learned in defeat, grew, took steps back, quit, made a comeback, mentored, made best friends, beat the competition and lost to the competition, had the best times of my life and the worst times of my life and became a better person from all of it. That is just a short list. I couldn’t, and probably shouldn’t, go on. But I guess what I’m getting at is that being in a newsroom made college not just good, but great. It also helped me understand why we do this.

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We’re at this strange point in American history. We’ve all heard the same back-and-forth about how this is the press’ time to reclaim the Fourth Estate and rise up. I won’t repeat that because I know you read. You’re here, aren’t you? But as I step out of this newsroom for one of the last times and start thinking about what’s next for me, I’ll think of Ed Bishop, our sharp tongued critiquer who tragically died this year. His words are still ringing in my ears. “Journalism is a calling, not a career.” I hope I never forget that.

I hope I never forget this is a civic duty, or that we should all aspire to be great, not just good, or that the best stories are the ones you don’t see right away, or to “cover the sh*t out of it,” and to know when to drown my darlings (kill your best stuff). I’ve had some of the best times of my life in this newsroom, and a few of the worst. But there isn’t a second that I spent working as a student journalist that wasn’t work worth doing.

We’re different. We’re not just students, we’re student journalists. We feel this calling and we have a duty. We report the news to the best of our effort and we get little thanks for the hard work we do. I’ll truly miss knowing more about Webster University finances than any undergraduate student on campus, and I’ll somehow miss putting a paper out at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday morning and then dragging myself (or at least attempting ) to an 8 a.m. class a few hours later.

So, let it be stated for the record that the best college experience is spending as many evenings as you can in a small newsroom, eating fast food, drinking coffee, writing copy and laying out pages.

Complaining about editors and writers? You can fit that anywhere in between.

P.S. And to Larry: There is no better mentor, friend or carrot and stick master than you. I am a better journalist and person because of the mentor you were for me. Never stop challenging the future Kavahns.

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