As The Columbia Chronicle turns 45, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell ’91, HDR ’18 recalls how working on the student paper set her on the path to become one of Chicago’s top journalists.
Before Mary Mitchell ’91, HDR ’18 was a columnist and editorial board member at the Chicago Sun-Times, she was a student reporter for The Columbia Chronicle. The award-winning student paper will celebrate its 45th anniversary with a reunion on Saturday, September 22. (RSVP to the event.) Here, Mitchell recalls how working on the student paper set her on the path to become one of Chicago’s top journalists.
How did working on The Chronicle prepare you to work in journalism?
For my junior year, when I came back to Columbia I joined The Chronicle. The Chronicle experience taught me newsroom culture and newsroom procedures, just how things are done. What the editor-in-chief does, what the managing editor does, what the reporters do. By working on the Chronicle, I really got a sense of all these different moving parts and how it all fits together.
It gave me a taste of the excitement of chasing a story. When you’re making those phone calls and you’re getting closer and closer and closer to the story. All those exciting things—I learned all that at the Chronicle.
How has The Chronicle changed since then?
We had a very narrow room where we did the editing. We also had [physically] cut up the stories and lay them out. It was not a very big space; it was enough space for maybe six people, and when we were working on the paper—actually putting it out—it was rather crowded in there.
I walked into [today’s Chronicle office], and I was like, “This is like a newsroom.” They all had their own computers and their own desks and all of that, we didn’t have that.
Why was Columbia a good fit for you?
The school really worked well for non-traditional students. I decided to go back to college at a late age. I was in my early 40’s and I really felt out of place in other school environments. As soon as I got [to Columbia], I got to explore introduction to journalism, I got to explore ethics of journalism, I got to actually work on stories. All of it was geared towards preparing me to walk out that door and actually do a job.