That Time I… became a journalist


Northern Star File Photo

Parker Otto sits at an editor’s desk in the Northern Star office. During the 2019 fall and spring semesters, Parker was the Lifestyle editor.

By Parker Otto

In college, nearly everything is finite. Classes last a semester, sports seasons last a few months and even college itself comes to an end. The skills we develop and the people we meet, though, are the few things that stay with us. While I’m set to graduate in the spring, one thing I will always treasure when I’m finished at NIU is my years at The Northern Star.

As a member of the NIU Honors Program, I attended the Honors retreat at NIU’s Loredo-Taft campus a few days before class began in the fall of 2018. While I was there, I made many friends that I’m still close with today, including one who recommended I join her at the Star. I took her advice and, after filling out an application and attending several hours of training, I became a journalist.

Before I even started classes, I was already writing articles for the Lifestyle section. Over the last seven semesters, my time at The Northern Star has been one of the most valuable experiences of my life. I’ve written for the Lifestyle section, served as its editor for all of 2019 and am now a columnist for the Opinion section. 

I have also taken several journalism courses and learned a lot from them. For me, experience is the greatest teacher there is. Both my classes and my work with the Star contribute to the other’s success. 

Being a writer has provided me with many opportunities, including my coverage of the Egyptian Theatre, exploring different areas of campus and making valuable friendships among my fellow reporters. 

That said, being a college student is stressful enough. When you’re also a journalist, you’re always trying to meet deadlines, looking for people to interview and trying to tell meaningful stories. It can be exhausting, stressful and unnerving. But it’s also rewarding. 

Recently I watched a documentary called “The Last Waltz,” which is a film about the final concert by The Band. In the film, guitarist Robbie Robertson described being on the road as an impossible way of life. In this way, being a journalist and a rock star aren’t that different. It’s a challenging job that stretches your understanding of the world as well as your creativity. 

Every time I enter the newsroom or finish my latest assignment, a feeling of fulfillment comes over me. Being a writer might be my strongest skill and I take pride in being able to express myself through this medium, especially when it can have such an impact on others.