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Culture writing in Orono

Prior to this school year, I had only written sports articles for the Maine Campus. When I went and studied in Scotland for the fall semester of this year (my senior year) I really wanted to write the study abroad column for the paper, because I knew it would be a great way to document my experience as well as to share it with other people in a way that wasn’t, “Look at me, look what I’m doing,” but rather a shared experience where I could make fun of myself and have fun discovering the land where legends like Groundskeeper Willie and Fat Bastard uttered their first words only a few short decades ago.

The weekly study abroad column was rightfully part of the culture section so I was a writer for culture throughout the fall, but I never really felt like I was necessarily in the culture section, or part of that group of writers. I was thousands of miles away, so most of my writing felt like it was its own thing, and it pretty much was. I had a ton of fun with it, and at the end of the fall semester, when I had arrived back in Maine for spring semester, I was asked if I wanted to continue writing for culture. I said yes, not really thinking about it, but then was sort of nervous and unenthused about it. What did I know about culture? How was I supposed to knowledgeably write about it? Was it just going to be a bunch of art galas and ballet recitals?

While there were certainly art galas and ballet recitals to report on, peers of mine who were much better suited for the job undoubtedly wrote them. The stories I did cover, however, heavily shaped my perspective on journalism in ways that I hadn’t necessarily given enough consideration to. Experiencing clubs like the Dungeons and Dragons Club, interviewing people for the #YouMaine stories, reviewing albums and comic books, and being forced to write thoughtfully on poetry slams and combined band concerts expanded my journalistic skill set as well as opened my eyes to the events and opportunities both at the university and in the greater Bangor area.

The Maine Campus is essential for journalism students because, at least in my case, it gives professionalism and legitimacy to what becomes a considerable chunk of the body of work in our resume and portfolio. Prior to this year, all the consistently-paying, journalistic-style writing I was doing for a legitimate publication was for the Maine Campus, and it was always about sports. All my writing other than my sports writing was for a class. While writing papers for a class can sometimes produce great stories, it can often be harder to find those stories and gain access to crucial people associated with the story because you don’t have a publication behind you. Sometimes it feels foolish to say to a potential interviewee that it’s simply “for a class.” But when it’s for the Maine Campus, it feels more legitimate both in the writer’s and the interviewee’s eyes, at least in my own experience.

Writing for the culture section opened my eyes to the University of Maine and its unique culture. There are so many events that I never would have gone to and clubs that I never would have known about had I not been part of the culture section, simply because many of them need to be sought out. They rely on people seeing and reading flyers in the Memorial Union. And it took until the final semester of my senior year to really understand how much is going on! If I could go back in time knowing what I know now, I’d first stop the Brady strip sack on the final drive of the 2017 Super Bowl, and then I would write about culture sooner.  Writing for culture was a welcomed new experience, and I think sports writing has helped improve my culture writing and vice versa.

If this isn’t an endorsement to try to write for the paper and to perhaps dabble in genres you may be unsure about (and if it isn’t just me doing some nostalgic navel-gazing), it’s certainly an endorsement to make an effort to experience both the UMaine culture and the cultures surrounding the university.

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