Ben Mullin: The Man Behind the Paper

By Ben Mullin, Editor-in-Chief, senior, Journalism and English literature major

Ask any journalist what they’re proudest of and you’ll get different answers.

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Photo Credit: Kevin Lee

Some will break out their old stories and tell you how they tracked down each breathtaking scoop. Some will regale you with tales about how they stood their ground when some infuriated reader demanded a retraction for a story that was completely true. Still, others will recall a tearful hug from a grieving family or simply recite a beautiful sentence they wrote recently.

But when I look back at the time I’ve spent as an editor at The Orion, Chico State’s student-run newspaper, I’m not proudest of my first interview—because it was probably awful—and I don’t tell grand stories about my first byline—because it was probably about silverware stolen from Whitney Hall. Instead, I’m just happy to have found my calling while getting to know some of my closest friends.

Anyone got some Ritz for this cheese? I know it’s totally cornball, but it’s true.

For those of you counting at home (read: absolutely no one) I’ve been working for The Orion since I arrived on campus in fall 2010. At a student newspaper, where roughly 75 percent of the staff turns over every semester, these three years are equivalent to about 20 millennia, give or take a few geologic epochs.

During those aeons, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, most of them riding around on the backs of brontosauruses. But the people that are still working in journalism mean a whole lot to me. Many of the reporters I’ve worked with have gone on to work at the Chico Enterprise-Record, our local newspaper. Some of our alums have left to work at other daily newspapers or radio and TV stations up and down California. And still others are freelancers, trying to eke out a living by shooting video, writing stories, and taking photographs.

But no matter where they are or what they’re doing, many of them recall the time they spent in the basement of Plumas Hall producing The Orion as some of the most transformative years of their lives.

It certainly was for me. When I arrived at Chico State, I was a biology major dead set on getting straight A’s and going directly to med school. From there, I would become a doctor, which in my mind consisted of wearing scrubs to work and making inspired diagnoses in the space of one hour, allowing time for commercials.

This career plan, of course, ground to a halt after I spent one semester in The Orion’s newsroom. In four short months, I realized that I loved the adrenaline rush that accompanied breaking an exciting story, even if it was about stolen silverware. I discovered that I enjoyed interviewing people just as much as I loved writing and reading. And I found a calling that I believed in, even though it wasn’t as glamorous as medicine looked on TV.

I realized that the world needs people who are willing to bust cheats, investigate wrongdoing, expose corruption, and give a voice to people languishing on the margins of society. It also needs people who are willing to call a grieving family to write an obituary that helps the community mourn. It needs people who will cover Little League games, talk to criminals, and trawl through megabytes of census data.

In short, the world needs more journalists. I’m happy to say that my experience at Chico State showed me that and guided me to a career I’d never considered before setting foot in the basement of Plumas Hall.

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