Alumni Essay: Brian Malloy '03 (Political Studies Major)
I graduated from Whitworth, rather anti-climactically, in January 2003, a few weeks after I returned from a study-abroad semester in Europe. I remember sitting in a cubicle at the registrar's office while the assistant typed a few things into the computer, then hit "Okay," and with a smile and a polite congratulations, officially offered me my bachelor of arts degree from Whitworth College. Major: Political Studies; Minor: Music. Such was the non-drama of the end of my college years. Equipped with my new degree - a true liberal arts specimen, featuring a mix of coursework in subjects such as The History of Vietnam, Politics of the Third World, and Poverty, a stint on the staff of The Whitworthian, and countless music rehearsals - I promptly set off to Seattle, where I hoped to crash on the floor of my brother's apartment and find a job waiting tables.
Four years on, I find myself living and working as a TV news producer in Washington, D.C. I work for Eurovision, a company widely known for its annual European pop-music extravaganza, The Eurovision Song Contest, but a company which also maintains news offices around the world for its member broadcasters in Europe, Africa and Asia. My journey here has been a bouncy one, with some odd twists of good luck and a small bit of persistence. As one might suspect, a few things had to happen to get me from Washington state to Washington, D.C. In the end, I never actually found work in Seattle in the early months of 2003. Instead, bored, slightly frustrated, and without any pressing obligations, I flew to the East Coast to visit a friend in upstate New York. The friend got sick, thoughtfully kicked me out of his contagious apartment, and I boarded a train to Washington, D.C. Having spent one semester on exchange in the capital city, I figured, with nothing better to do, I would see some friends and perhaps ask around for work.
My side trip to D.C. ended up a permanent detour. Within a week of arriving, I landed a job with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's news bureau in Washington, in the unglamorous and barely paying position of front-desk receptionist. While the job entailed absolutely no editorial responsibilities, I could actually interact with working journalists and watch the news, guilt-free, at work. For someone harboring aspirations of a career in the news business, the job turned out to be a lucky break. I spent six months as a receptionist before receiving a minor promotion to the dusty confines of the office's archives. For over a year, I compiled tapes of TV footage for use by producers and correspondents in the office. While the work was still mostly removed from the realm of editorial work (think: spending days rewinding and recording over tapes on a fancier version of a home VCR), it at least brought me into the realm of daily news production. Finally, in the fall of 2004, after much cajoling and hand-waving, I was given a new title (with no pay raise) to work as the CBC radio network's only producer in Washington. The opportunity placed me directly under the guidance and mentorship of CBC's major radio news correspondent in Washington, and gave me the opportunity to contribute to a variety of radio programs across Canada. With microphone in hand, I spend many a day running around Washington interviewing academic experts, staking out politicians, and capturing the sounds of political protests, among other things. For a political news "junkie" like me, the job was a dream.
My job at CBC placed me in the unique niche of working for foreign broadcasters in Washington, which has turned out to be the unexpected environment where my career has had its forward momentum. While I worked full time at CBC, I managed to find part-time work with the BBC. I moonlighted there for a year-and-a-half, working nights and weekends as a freelance producer. My work at the BBC eventually led to my discovery of Eurovision's offices in Washington, and last spring I took on a TV news-producing job with them. So far it has been a highly enriching and rewarding experience.
Needless to say, I could hardly have predicted this path, but it was without a doubt my experiences as a political studies student at Whitworth that ultimately opened these doors. What began as simply classes to fulfill core requirements (I started Whitworth with the intention of majoring in music, and took International Relations "for the heck of it"), led to an entire change of major. Conversations I had with fellow students in my politics classes led to a stint at The Whitworthian, my first foray into journalism. My professors at Whitworth encouraged me to take advantage of exchange programs, which in turn led me to D.C. and a journalism internship. And so now, at the beginning of 2007, I seem not only to be fully employed, but to be working in a field relevant to my interests and my background in political studies.
I'd be negligent here if I didn't mention that there have been a number of setbacks and disappointments along the way. There have been rejected applications to journalism graduate school, ditto another application to law school and one for a grant to study overseas. I've also found myself on the cusp of job offers, at organizations I'd dreamed of working for, only to be turned down at the last minute. As far as I can tell, the initial years of finding your "professional self" are nothing if not small collections of forward and backward steps, lucky breaks, and small disappointments that open the way to new opportunities. I'm thankful that, while I'm not always operating with great stores of these qualities, I've mustered enough flexibility, patience, and persistence to get me to where I am now.
As for the next step--a new journalism gig in D.C.? Graduate school? A move to the West Coast? A job overseas? I've got plenty of ideas. But whatever the next step, I owe much to my time as a politics student at Whitworth, for the professors, ideas, and subjects that helped me find a slice of the world that deeply interests and motivates me.