Bwog, Be Nicer!
Written by Sarah Faith Thompson
Continuing our week of 10th birthday throwbacks to former Bwoggers, Sarah Faith Thompson has some insights on her time as co-EIC of this fabulously fraught publication.
If you look way back in the Columbia University Class of 2016 Facebook group, all the way back to the cringeworthy month of August 2012, there’s a post where I ask which Columbia publication I should join. Some people offered their advice, then I wrote: “I feel like Bwog would make fun of me if I tried to join ☺.”
Someone tipped that to Bwog a few times when I was running for editor-in-chief my sophomore year. I thought it was hilarious. I had come such a long way from being simultaneously scared and impressed of Bwog’s snarkiness and edginess. I’d worked my way up from a silly NSOP post and sitting on the floor at my first meeting to become an extremely active member in Bwog, volunteering to write posts and helping out wherever I could. Inspired by the reporting skills of Conor Skelding and Peter Sterne, and by the toughness and judgment of Alexandra Svokos—all former editorial board members who are now doing impressive things in journalism—and along with the encouragement of my friends/peers within Bwog, I decided to run for EIC.
Nowadays I don’t really talk or dwell much on my time at Bwog unless I run into people at 1020, but in a job interview or two I’ve been asked if I have any regrets from my college experience. It’s also a topic I have thought about a good deal since my premature resignation in September 2014. If I could go back to whichever night in the November of my sophomore year that I decided to run for editor and advise myself against it, I think that I would, telling myself to focus more on research, piano, and enjoying my time in college. There were the highs, like when the New York Times printed eight of my words. Another high point was the series of pre-frosh profiles that I brought back and which provided me with endless amusement. It was exciting being one of the most informed people on campus and having connections. Most important were the friendships that deepened through mutual suffering with Maud Rozee, Claire Friedman, and Jake Hershman, members of my editorial board and publishing staff.
It’s telling, though, that I don’t really remember more of the “serious” coverage from my time as editor, or even any of the more popular ones that I had a hand in. There were too many lows, like the multiple times I found myself sobbing from stress in Riverside Park, the nights spent conspiring to resign en masse, and having the more mainstream media drag us through the mud.
Although I put an extraordinary amount of effort into the job and took it very seriously, I look back and see how Bwog brought out the worst in me, my friends, and my former mentors and peers. In a fast-paced environment we’re bound to make errors in search of the scoop. Still, as EIC I was likely too confrontational, made more enemies than I should have, and was not able to apologize or accept responsibility for mistakes I made, no matter how sleep deprivation or lack of help from my staff may have played into these mistakes. I regret and apologize for those times.
Being editor-in-chief of Bwog was thankless, although that was to be expected. Bwog had been special to me and to the larger campus community because of its timeliness, its relevance, and its mission to both inform and entertain. Unfortunately, and without going into the details, due to a combination of the stress of it all, conflicts of opinion, miscommunications, and what I can only describe as petty spitefulness, my time at Bwog and the people I interacted with left a bad taste in my mouth. I hope others now share my regrets.
Some things never change in the realm of campus media—apparently there will always be angry meninists who ridicule you, for example. I’ve never been busier than the semesters I was involved in it, and I imagine that things are similar for the current editor, Mason Amelotte. I hope the partisan politics of the organization and its allies have simmered down so that Bwog can produce even more timely coverage and become again a space for the community to share ideas and provide sharp critiques about campus media, our academic culture, the bureaucracy, and so on. If my advice meant anything to current Bwog staff, future members of campus media, or Columbia students in general, it would be to privilege being kind.
Nuts via Chris Froome/Shutterstock.com