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COLUMN: Parting thoughts on journalism, life and the great unknown

By Paul Christiansen
On April 23, 2014

And so this too, like all good things, must come to an end.

For the past four months I've had the opportunity to sit behind my laptop, clicking keys and delivering my ideas and opinions through this newspaper. And Aggies throughout this campus and beyond have, for whatever reasons, wasted time and eyesight taking in these words that won't likely be remembered through the generations to come.

I've always been a glass-half-empty kind of guy, but even with my solemn negativity — I prefer the term "realism" — guiding me as I typed up these remarks onto a blank Word document each week, I was not deterred.

This, my final entry as an op-ed columnist for The Utah Statesman, won't be much different than its predecessors. It'll still be full of the things I think are witty, sober truths and observations.

I'm relatively new to the field of journalism. I've only been taking courses within the major for two years, beginning in Fall 2012. But in my short time as a working journalist, I've learned what journalism is and what it is not.

Journalism isn't wearing a pair of horn-rimmed glasses on your face while a buttoned-down shirt-and-tie combination covers the blazing "S" scrawled across your chest; there are very few stories that involve uncovering a government cover-up through information acquired from a mysterious figure lurking in the shadows of a parking garage; there are few death threats made and even fewer explosives hidden in mailboxes; and — though this has been known to happen to me — it isn't falling victim to an irrevocable crush on an intelligent, ambitious co-worker; at least, not very often.

Journalism isn’t like it’s presented in the movies. But that doesn't make it any less meaningful or important. There is still a romantic quality to it.

Journalism is a lot of early mornings and even more late nights; it's too many cups of coffee and discarded cans from empty energy drinks littering the back seat of your car; it's having to drop plans at the last minute so you can cover a story before someone else beats you to it; it's back pain and red eyes from staring at a computer screen for hours; it's second-guessing each line you write; it's wanting the next story to be something that'll make a difference to someone, somewhere.

It will always be like that. The competition won't go away, and the self-critiques are healthy. It's good to want to always be better.

When I entered into USU's department of journalism and communication, I was told by many friends and family to rethink my decision — after all, haven't we been hearing for years that print media is on its way out? Yet, I was drawn to it nevertheless.

Two years later, I'm preparing to graduate and take my first steps into the real world, trading one conservative state that I've exchange blows with for another as I make the move to Gillette, Wyo., to begin a new chapter in my life.

I've never been more terrified — or more excited, for that matter. Many of you, my fellow Aggies, are getting ready to take those same awkward first steps into your own bright futures. This university is known for producing extraordinary graduates, whether you be an engineer or a musician, a political scientist or a biologist.

Or perhaps, in some cases, a journalist.

Remember, my friends, that journalists are the watchdogs on society. We are that criticized force that seeks out the truth in the muddled fiction and delivers it to the public that needs — and deserves — to know it. Try to keep in mind that everything I've contributed has been written with good intentions and hopes to better our university and our community.

Tom Stoppard, a British playwright, penned a line for his production "The Real Thing" that seems appropriate in this instance: "I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you're dead.”

For those of you graduating this spring, go out there and nudge the world a little bit, whether by word or by action. For those of you who will continue your education here at USU, be proud of the knowledge you gain each and every day. It might just help you in an unexpected way somewhere down the line.

I'm only a writer and nothing special. But I hope my words have meant something to some of you. If I'm quickly forgotten after I leave this university, after my footsteps no longer ring out in the halls of Old Main or the Agricultural Sciences Building that has been a second home to me in recent years, so be it.

But I will always fondly remember my time spent as an Aggie here at Utah State University.

Paul is the former features editor of The Utah Statesman and is a senior majoring in print journalism. Send any comments to

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