Scanlan: A history major’s experience at The Daily

Sophia Scanlan, Senior Staffer

Graduation Issue 2022

People often ask me, “Where did you do your JR?” At Northwestern, Medill School of Journalism students spend a quarter doing their Journalism Residency at a newsroom or company of their interest. I’m often tempted to say something funny and pretentious like, “Oh, the New York Times, what about you?”

But usually, I just remind them that I don’t study journalism. I study history and have never taken a Medill class. Next year, I will teach middle school — not become a journalist.

In fact, I did not intend to write for The Daily when I first arrived in September 2018. I served as the editor of my high school newspaper and, while I loved it, I thought I might be done with student journalism. But when I visited the activities fair, I couldn’t pass The Daily’s table. The thing is, I like writing and editing.

So, I wrote my name down.

As I reflect upon my time at The Daily — a tenure that included countless articles and several edit board positions — I think about all that a history major, future teacher and person with no plans to become a journalist has gained from this paper.

First, The Daily cultivated my academic interest in sports and gender. This year, I wrote a thesis on Toni Stone, Connie Morgan and Mamie Johnson, three Black women who played professional baseball during the mid-1950s.

This thesis was born from my work on The Daily’s sports desk. I joined the desk my freshman year and spent my weekends covering softball and cross country. I liked telling the stories of women athletes who hadn’t always received the recognition they deserved.

A few weeks into the quarter, then-Sports Editor Ella Brockway asked me to write a feature on Allyson Darragh, then-director of baseball operations at NU. As I spoke with Darragh — and then two more women in the athletic department — I was captivated by the stories of women who excelled in male-dominated worlds. While I didn’t realize it at the time, these articles sparked my interest in writing more on the intersection of sports and gender.

Second, The Daily allowed me to try new things and have some fun. I never covered sports, attended an NCAA media availability or interviewed a college president, to name a few opportunities.

Whenever I got lost in the stress of it all — a 6 p.m. deadline here, a 2 a.m. bedtime there — I tried to remind myself that I liked writing for the paper. I enjoyed the thrill of asking questions at news conferences or summing up an exciting soccer game in 500 words. I didn’t feel pressure to win awards or accumulate impressive clips for journalism internships — I wrote because I had fun doing it and wanted to help keep the community informed.

I share all this to show that you don’t have to study journalism, aspire to become a reporter or see your friend group in the newsroom to have a worthwhile experience at The Daily. You can come in out of curiosity and stay for years.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @sophia_scanlan