Purdue Exponent: An English Major’s Playground
February 7, 2020 Libby Joson
The Exponent has been a significant news source at Purdue since 1889. It was originally a monthly magazine but became a daily in 1906. The Exponent remained in the Purdue Memorial Union’s basement from the 1930s to 1989, when it moved to its current location at 460 Northwestern Avenue, becoming the first college publication to construct a building from its own funding. Today, it is an independent newspaper, primarily run by students and published by the non-profit Purdue Student Publishing Foundation. The web magazine began in 1996 and the daily print changed to two days a week, Mondays and Thursdays, in 2017.
As both a business and an educational institution, the Exponent’s mission is to serve undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, staff, and local residents. The newspaper has seven full-time professionals who work with its many student employees, and all student staff members receive stipends for their labor. Reporters and editors cover the campus, city, and sports news, alongside editors for copy, design, photos, and graphics. There is something for everyone at the Exponent. Its alumni have gone go on to be politicians, lawyers, professors, judges, advertisers, executives, journalists, and more. This student newspaper provides real experience and has produced Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as Emmy and Oscar winners.
Among the one hundred students employed by newspaper, English majors stand out. Below are just a few of them:
ALISA REYNYA, ENGLISH LITERATURE
Alisa Reynya, a junior studying English literature, has been at the Exponent for about two and a half years. “I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything but English,” she says.
Alisa is the editor-in-chief, overseeing the newsroom that consists of campus, city, sports, photos, graphics, and copy desks. The students at the Exponent have complete creative control over the content. Alisa decides what stories and visuals will be front page, when to use or not to use a source’s name and information, and what areas of coverage editors and reporters focus on. Alisa’s leadership requires her to answer a lot of questions and make many final decisions, something that most college students do not get to experience.
As editor-in-chief, Alisa has moved on from reporting, but she has written a few editorials when the senior staff has taken stance on a pressing issue at Purdue or in the larger journalism community. For instance, Alisa wrote an editorial on behalf of the editorial board when Purdue announced, to much controversy, that it would be allowing a Chick-fil-A on campus in September 2019: https://www.purdueexponent.org/opinion/article_50a744e3-c585-5993-8eab-9a9fbcb01fbe.html
Alisa says that working for the newspaper has “taken me further out of my comfort zone than I ever imagined possible. I’ve learned to talk to complete strangers, make fast and strategic decisions, take risks, and experiment.” Even students who do not pursue a career in journalism, can learn a lot from their experience: “It teaches you to actively listen and ask detailed questions, to consolidate information, and to write quickly, concisely and accurately under a fast deadline.” Reporting for the Exponent looks great on your resume and it also gives you the chance to work with people who are really different from yourself. This is a significant advantage to possess going into a post-college workplace.
JACKIE LE, ENGLISH LITERATURE
Jackie Le, a senior in English, is the campus editor of the Exponent. Jackie has been at the newspaper for a little more than a year, bridging reporters and upper staff members. Some of her duties include keeping track of reporters’ progress on stories and relaying that to the editor-in-chief. Jackie also provides edits and does reporting. Although she has less time to report stories, she averaged about two stories a week last year.
The Exponent has provided her with opportunities to talk to brilliant people, including the Apollo 11 flight director, Gene Kranz. Jackie met him when he visited Purdue and asked him questions during a media Q&A. “I wouldn’t really have the opportunity to do so otherwise,” she says. You can find Jackie’s article on the event here: https://www.purdueexponent.org/campus/article_aa9d353a-f440-11e9-981a-ef9935c0efe2.html
Basically, the Exponent provides credible journalism for a wide-reaching audience. “Everything we do is essentially what is done at any other print organization, and this is a good stepping-stone for students to get a taste of the ‘real world,’” says Jackie. “It’s a great place to build writing and social skills, and connect with the community all while having fun.” If you’re looking for something to make your resume stand out, the Exponent provides the kind of professional experience that English majors at many other colleges just can’t get.
JULIA TAYLOR, PROFESSIONAL WRITING
Sophomore Julia Taylor, a double major in Professional Writing and Spanish, has been a copy editor at the Exponent for over a year. In her time at Purdue, she’s found that the English Department provides many beneficial career opportunities, including the chance to network at outlets such as the Exponent.
Julia’s duties include coming in once a week for print night to read over reporters’ articles, ensuring that they are without grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes. Julia also fact-checks the articles to confirm that the stories and the headlines are cohesive. Additionally, copy editors are required to come in once a week during the day to read over stories that will be published on the website and write staff reports on notable events and research. While Julia isn’t a reporter stories, some copyeditors are. Students are given the opportunity to do both, if they are interested.
“The Exponent has allowed me to gain experience in copyediting and understand the inner workings of a newspaper,” says Julia. “I’ve been able to meet like-minded people with interests similar to mine on a campus where students interested in English and Liberal Arts are sometimes hard to come by.”
Libby Joson is a sophomore majoring in Profession Writing at Purdue.