Back in the spring of 1991, I was a University of Delaware freshman who desperately wanted to be a journalist.
My problem, however, was overeager assholeness. Or, put different, I was a little dickwad.
The student newspaper, The Review, had a pretty strict no-freshman policy, but I was allowed to cover some sporting events after showing off clips from my hometown weekly newspaper. Before long, however, the editors tired of this whiney little 18-year old complaining about changes to his copy. And, one day, a Review higher-up named Josh Putterman pulled me aside and (in the kindest way possible) said I was no longer welcome in the offices.
I was crushed.
Ultimately, after writing a truly pathetic apology letter, I was permitted to return. And one day I asked whether they would allow me to write a piece on the state’s only major colleges (Delaware and Delaware State). Specifically, why two Division I-AA football programs never played one another.
“Sure,” someone said.
I doubt the editors thought much would develop from this. But, come spring I submitted a piece that would ultimately run across the front page of the April 16, 1991 newspaper. The headline: DELAWARE VS. DELAWARE STATE: THE SPORTS RIVALRY THAT NEVER WAS.
The aftermath was dizzying. The Delaware athletic director insisted he was misquoted—until I played him a tape of the interview. My friends and family members were thrilled. I was hired by The Review as an assistant sports editor for the following year. Delaware and Delaware State agreed to start playing.
Best of all, for me, was a small moment heard by, at most, 200 people.
At the time the campus radio station was WXDR, and toward semester’s end Chuck Stone, the legendary Philadelphia Daily News scribe and my Intro to Journalism professor, appeared on air for an interview. When asked about the work at The Review, he began talking about Delaware-Delaware State. And he said (and I can still hear his voice, even though Chuck died several years back): “Jeff Pearlman, my student, wrote that. My student.”
Man, I wish I kept the tape.
That’s a rambling, self-indulgent intro to a blog post that isn’t actually about me.
I teach journalism at Chapman University here in Orange, California. The class meets once per week, from 7-9:50 pm, and it’s a genuine joy for me. I love the banter, I love the writing. Mostly, I love the students. There are 13 in the room, and they’re all terrific. And when they write well, or dig deep, or even bring forth a funky/cool/dazzling sentence or paragraph, I well up with pride.
This week, I’m particularly prideful.
The front page of the Chapman Panther, the weekly student newspaper, features a fantastic piece headlined CHAPMAN ACCEPTS MILLIONS FROM CHARLES KOCH FOUNDATION, HEADED BY CONSERVATIVE DONOR. The byline is split between Jamie Altman and Rebecca Glaser, and while I don’t know the latter, the former is both the Panther editor in chief and an enrollee in my course.
Inside the newspaper is another terrific offering, this one headlined ‘DINGERS,’ DEMENTIA AND DEPRESSION: CONCUSSIONS AND THE FUTURE OF FOOTBALL. The writer, Jacob Hutchinson, is also in my class, and serves as the Panther sports editor.
Both Jamie and Jacob are Grade-A students and people. But, best of all (in this case), they’re dogged. They worked and worked and worked and dug and dug and dug. They didn’t rest until the stories felt fully reported, didn’t stop until all stones were overturned.
The end result: Two remarkable pieces of student journalism that, I hope, bring them the same sense of accomplishment as DELAWARE VS. DELAWARE STATE once brought a young punk in the First State.
Jamie Altman and Jacob Hutchinson.