What connects my work and my Colby education is simply this: being a journalist is like being a perpetual liberal arts student—you are always immersing yourself in a new subject, learning about it, doing a crash course in research, developing some knowledge/expertise, all in the effort to better understand a subject, human behavior, the world, and then, especially as an editor, moving on to something else.
At Colby, I had first intended to be a science major, but then changed to literature because I loved language and stories.
As a journalist over the years, I’ve overseen science and medicine coverage, edited big health care/Ebola/medical mistakes/epidemiology stories (that’s all back to the biology major). I’ve dispatched a reporter to the Amazon to write about the first contact between a tiny tribe and modern civilization via a religious group that saved obscure languages by translating and writing them down (the former cultural anthropology/religion student in me). I’ve read The Iliad and its modern literary takeoffs to understand some of the literature of war.
It’s a cliché, but Colby taught me to research, to develop a thesis, to write, and figure out what I thought, by that painful process of revision. For one assignment from Professor Charlie Bassett, maybe on a Faulkner story, I found in the stacks some old book on rhetoric that explained the mechanics of writing, which helped me for that paper but also stuck with me years later when I needed to be more analytical as an editor. —Rebecca Corbett ’74