In the early '90s while I was attending the University of Houston, I practically lived in and around the communications department on the far east side of campus. Behind a nondescript metal door in a downstairs corner of the brick two-story building was a large, tile-floored, windowless room that housed The Daily Cougar, the campus student-run newspaper. In an era when so many college papers were turning to faculty to run them, often neutering their coverage of the college in the process, the Cougar was an anomaly, full of students, many well beyond typical college age -- fairly typical for this commuter school where Houstonians got (and continue to get) a second chance at higher education -- who lived for digging up dirt and did some remarkably good journalism.
Circa 1992, I'm the second dork from the left.
In those days, there was a relatively small staff of editors and writers mixed in with journalism majors who were required to write as part of their classes, which is how I got started. I'll never forget standing in front of Debbie Housel, now an assistant district attorney in Nashville, then a tough, no bullshit editor who wasn't all that interested in dealing with the likes of me, a goofy-looking, long-haired kid who was sent to her by his professor.
She was terrifying, brutally honest and a hell of an editor. It was my first taste of what felt like honest-to-God journalism, the stuff I romanticized when I watched All the President's Men.More »