Wilder Voice’s former Managing Editor, now a journalist in London, talks favorite memories at the magazine and what makes Oberlin a special place for young journalists.
This discussion is part of a new interview series, “Institutional Memory.”
When did you graduate Oberlin?
I graduated Oberlin in 2014.
What did you major in?
I was a history major, and my concentration was Middle East and North Africa studies.
What are you up to these days?
I am a journalist and TV producer with NBC News based in their London bureau.
What years were you involved with Wilder Voice and what positions did you hold?
If I remember correctly, I was involved with Wilder Voice my last two years at Oberlin. I think I had some sort of editor role or something for the first semester that I was involved, and then for two or three semesters I was Managing Editor underneath an Editor-in-Chief.
What kind of role did WV play for you in those two years at Oberlin?
It was such a special place. Anytime I think about Wilder Voice, the first thing that comes to mind is just a feeling of community and warmth. I thought it was an incredibly creative space, it was a safe space in more than one way, it was an open space, and it was just a consistent, great place to have, to be spending some of my free time.
Could you talk a bit about what you mean when you say it was a safe space?
It just felt like there was a lot of diversity—internally, [and] externally. I felt like we were very open and creative with the ways that we put the magazine together. We always were open to taking ideas from our contributors, from our other editors, and we did a lot of really interesting layouts with the magazine. Like I remember one year, we had one poet, and their poems were interspersed throughout articles, or we had, one year, one artist design art interspersed throughout the articles. I felt like we were always coming up with new and different ways to put the magazine together.
We’d love to know about the art that you published in the magazine. How did you guys go about getting art and how were you thinking about art during your tenure?
It always just felt, like, really dynamic, which goes back to what I was saying about how I felt like it was such an open and creative place, professionally. We took very seriously how we would reflect 3D mediums into the print magazine, so we would make sure we had the right photographer, or right photocopy. And I also remember we did a couple articles where we actually embedded somebody’s modern art into an article—so art that wasn’t directly related to the article, but was like a brief pause while you’re reading. You could view this art embedded in the page. And I remember just thinking that was so creative and beautiful. The articles can be very long in Wilder Voice, and I loved that we were open to including art even within the layout of the magazine and articles.
What do you think you learned from your time at WV?
Being a manager, I learned a lot about how to work together as a team and how to manage staff, how to manage writers—but mostly, definitely the teamwork aspect. I learned how to be on a team and work together.
We’d love to know what you did right after you got out of Oberlin, and if (or how) WV factored into that or helped you with that.
I actually sometimes still have Wilder Voice on my resume, because at the time we had a pretty big budget and it was the first time as a young person that I had managed that kind of money and that amount of staff—plus upholding the journalistic integrity of the magazine. So for me it just showed a level of responsibility that employers were interested in, and it was proof that I had experience in journalism. I went pretty much right into journalism after I graduated. I knew I wanted to do that. I actually remember, when I applied for internships and Winter Terms, I had given copies of the magazine to potential employers because I was so proud of it. I thought it was so impressive and an incredible example of the work that we can do as young journalists.
What’s your favorite WV memory?
My favorite Wilder Voice memory is probably the interview that I did with Zeinab Abul-Magd, who’s the [Middle East and North African studies] history professor. It was an incredible experience to sit down with my advisor, with someone whom I considered a mentor, and have the space and the time to publish this back-and-forth and let her tell her story and her experience.
On the flipside, do you have a worst WV memory?
I wouldn’t say that there are any worst ones, ’cause I worked with such great, calm people. I would say that I do remember the days leading up to printing being quite stressful. I remember spending very long hours and [have] distinct memories of, at the end of the semester, spending very very late evenings [at the WV office]. Leaving-when-it-was-dark-out evenings. I do remember it being down to the wire.
What, to your knowledge, was WV’s “reputation” on campus?
[Laughs] Definitely a bit posh. We had a sort of posh reputation, to put it nicely. I think we also had a reputation of really hard journalism, like hard news journalism. We had a reputation of really brilliant writing. We had a reputation of taking a look at very interesting and complex stories.
What do you think is the most essential thing about WV that makes it WV?
I think it is an incredibly unique experience to have the opportunity to put together a magazine that is such high quality, to be able to have a publication that takes art seriously, that takes poetry seriously, plus doing hard news articles and interesting investigations. I think that is a very, very unique experience as a college student and it definitely makes the magazine stand out.
Is there anything you wish you had done at WV that you didn’t, or anything that you would have done differently in hindsight?
I would’ve taken more moments to be mindful and be present in those experiences. Wilder Voice was one of many things I was involved in at Oberlin, and yet it was probably one of the most precious memories I have, so my only wish would be that I would be more mindful […] you know, take a deep breath and take in those late-night editing sessions, ’cause I remember it very fondly.
Is there anything that you were surprised, or not surprised, to learn while working with Oberlin writers?
I just remember being genuinely impressed with the empathy and the journalistic integrity of all of the journalists I worked with at Oberlin and how they approached their reporting, from the newspaper to Wilder Voice.
Do you think there’s anything about Oberlin that draws so many people to doing journalism here or going into journalism later?
Yeah! I think it fosters a curiosity, and an empathy, and an openness, and those are some of the most fundamental characteristics of journalists.
Thanks so much for doing this!
Yeah, it’s really cool. It’s tough to have a legacy when people are just there four years on a rotation, and I think going back and doing something like this is huge, because it’ll be referred to for years to come, too.
Elizabeth Kuhr graduated from Oberlin College in 2014 with a degree in history. She is an NBC News journalist based in London. Elizabeth writes, films, edits, and produces stories for TV and digital.
Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Kuhr.