Position: Freelance Page Editor
College: Washington University
I am half-debater, half-journalist. This goes further than just enrolling in Advanced Debate first semester and Advanced Journalism second semester. I define my other extracurriculars by whether they identify more with public speaking or writing. Not a lot of students have tried this combination, so it surprised me that the two had more than surface similarities.
A little background first: at the beginning of high school, I balanced the two fairly well, even while taking journalism year-round sophomore year. Joining International Baccalaureate junior year meant I had only one slot open for electives. Not wanting to choose between the two classes I loved, I split that spot in two.
Summers were a different matter. The best debaters went to three-or four-week-long debate camps. I was also strongly encouraged to go to a journalism convention. The two almost always overlapped. Not able to split that spot, I went to debate camp for two years, at UMKC then Gonzaga University, and a journalism workshop for one week in Dallas.
This balancing act has always been exhausting. Both activities are extremely time consuming, but in different ways. The bulk of my debating happened on Fridays and Saturdays, while journalism was mostly during the school week. The East debate squad and newspaper staff are two of the largest in the state, if not the country. Transitioning from debate to newspaper is harder than you’d think, and walking into room 521 the first day back from Winter Break is nerve-wracking. The mindsets and group dynamics are completely different in an inexplicable, you’d-have-to-be-there kind of way, but I’m always amused by the few things that are the same.
Newspaper and debate kids can both be really dorky over certain things. For example, debaters can become ecstatic if President Obama manages to pass some policy that is good for a certain argument, just as the newspaper staff was when they found out his campaign font was the same as the Harbinger’s headline font. Both the debate room and the journalism room have some of the school’s only couches—highly coveted spots, but fought for more aggressively in debate, since there are two sofas in the journalism room and the seats are covered in random AP stylebooks and forgotten props for photo illustrations. Finally, both advisers’ real first names begin with “C,” but they go by different ones, and are most commonly referred to by students as either just “Tate” or “Witt.”
There is one slightly terrifying similarity between the two—the Critique/Kritik. Critique Day in journalism and the Kritik argument in debate were the things I feared. In anticipation of both, my stomach would clench up, my face would go red, and I would have the inexplicable need to go to the bathroom. The possibility of hearing my story evaluated in front of the entire class or being forced to debate theoretical texts from random philosophers evoked the exact same reaction—complete and utter dread.
Yes, both activities taught me the virtues of hard-work, discipline, teamwork, and responsibility, but the biggest “lesson I learned” would be working for growth. I started off in both newspaper and advanced debate as a scared sophomore, and I really wasn’t that good at either, but I like to think I’ve gotten to point where, though I might not be exceptional, I’m much better than I started. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t hyperventilate at all when I hear the word Critique/Kritik, which is pretty extraordinary in and of itself, since at the beginning of my debate/journalism career, I would be in a constant state of about-to-throw-up.
Though one day, I will inevitably be forced to choose between the two career-wise, I think I’ll always be an amorphous, fused journalism-debate combo in my heart. And that’s just fine with me.