Perspectives: In Their Own Words
Dec. 11, 2020 | Interview by Heather Rolph | Photos courtesy of Berry Phillips
Berry, an outgoing Co-Editor-in-Chief, reflects on growing up around the news, her obsession with history, and her time with The Catalyst. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
“A couple weeks ago, my granddad passed away. He and I weren’t really close, but he was a journalist. I was cleaning up his house with my mom and dad, and he kept newspapers. I never felt very close to him, but he had the New York Times from the day that me and my sisters and my cousin were born.
My granddad was a foreign correspondent for a newspaper in England. My mom is English, and her grandparents came from a really hardscrabble background — her grandad was a coal miner, which is ironic because that’s the industry my dad works in too. So the way that my grandad was able to come to America and escape — not escape because it’s not a terrible place — but Northern England, there’s not a lot of opportunities there. And so news was how he did that.
So always, news is what we would talk about. From a super young age, current affairs is how my family bonded. I never really realized that other people don’t really have that connection with the news, where it’s, you know, really a part of my everyday life and always has been. [When I became involved at the newspaper I realized] I actually know a lot more about news and have a feel for it that’s not natural to everyone.
Honestly, I kind of had a weird path into this job because I was first just the head copy editor. Someone just posted it on Facebook, that they were hiring, and I was like, eh, there’s no way I’m going to get it, but I just did the editing test and sent it in — right before the beginning of my sophomore year — and I got it, and I just fell in love right away.
Oh my god, I was so intimidated. When I walked in the pub house, I was a little sophomore — at that time it was just a stacked cast of characters, everyone was so cool, cool clothes … everyone knew what was going on on campus, everyone was super involved, and that’s something that I have always struggled with. Once I’m involved, I’m super involved, but it’s really hard for me to take that plunge. So I was really happy that I did that with The Catalyst because it pushed me to be involved in so many other areas of campus. And not be so insecure.
I hadn’t even really been a reader of The Catalyst my first year, but I loved pub days, and I loved knowing what’s going on on campus. Now I get to read every single article — that’s also something kind of unique: in the head copy editor position, you read every article. Same with editor-in-chief. So then, I just felt I had so much knowledge of the school and what was going on. People would be like, ‘Oh, when’s that talk happening?’ And I’d be like, ‘Oh, like, this day…’ I loved feeling like — not an insider, but I just loved knowing what’s going on. I’m such a sponge for that kind of thing.
I studied abroad in Spain [my junior year], so I was not head copy editor when I was in Spain, I was just a normal copy editor. I copy edited the opinion section from Spain, which was so fun, because I loved going abroad but I felt so removed from, like, Earth. I felt like I couldn’t be farther away from Colorado. So reading the opinion section, I got to read about, you know, what people were thinking about, like random Colorado Springs construction projects and stuff like that, and, you know, the crosswalks. So for a couple hours every Wednesday I really felt I was back on campus, even though I was in a café in Granada [laughs].
I really think that having a Co-EiC [co-Editor-in-Chief] is amazing. I think it really just — it becomes a team effort. Remembering that you’re part of a team is so valuable. Even when we’re disagreeing, we want the same thing, and we care about The Catalyst.
I remember every week [in the spring] I’d be like, ‘Let’s do a COVID thing, let’s do a little infographic on what to do about COVID,’ and everyone was like, ‘Eh, it’ll be over by tomorrow’ — and then we got sent home. It’s just interesting what we thought was news, versus what was news. I usually think I’m just such a nervous Nellie, but I was right.
The worst part of the EiC role has been being online. It’s heartbreaking to me that we don’t do pub days, we haven’t been printing — that’s not how I envisioned the role, obviously. So that’s been hard, and disappointing. I wish we had more time, because I kept on thinking, ‘Oh, in a few months, you know, it’ll be back. And we’ll be printing again, we’ll have pub days again’ — and now we’re finishing off and we only published six editions together.
I feel so blessed that I love being around my family, and just having this time together has been priceless. I don’t know the next time — I spent, what, March to August with them, just the five of us, in my house, and we really got to have a full summer together. Not always running off to be with our friends or whatever. Like we ate dinner together every single night, I watched TV with my mom after dinner every single day until August. So that has been incredible.
I was so excited to come back home and just get into that, but it is really really difficult doing school online. I don’t feel engaged, I don’t feel like I’m learning as much, I don’t think I’m holding myself to the same standards. I know that — it’s just hard for me. It could be senioritis, but I don’t think it is. I’m just feeling really lucky that I have such a stable home base here.
My family is super progressive and all that, but [my dad] works almost exclusively in metallurgical coal, which is what you need to make steel. So I actually wrote an opinion article for The Catalyst about how CC students don’t know how the world works, basically. Consider the Green New deal, or wind turbines. Wind turbines are made out of steel, so you actually need to mine coal to make them. And you can’t recycle steel, that’s not how it works. So it’s been really eye-opening to me that I know — from what my dad does — the climate discussion at CC is unbelievably idealistic and just not — there’s no real understanding of how the world works.
I’m so proud of my dad. Both of my parents — I’m obsessed with them. And he, you know, there’s obviously a preconceived idea of what someone who works in that field should think and do [which has] really opened my eyes to how close-minded people are.
It’s interesting because obviously in these conversations, progressive people are always like, ‘You need to open up your eyes and be more open-minded.’ It’s been a really interesting case study of one of those things where it’s like, ‘Oh you’re actually wrong about that, or you just don’t know about it.’ So it’s interesting. And I’ve had negative comments, but it doesn’t get me down because I know that it’s based in ignorance — most people don’t even know what their dads do for work, I think. They don’t really know the nitty gritty of it, and the consequences of it.
Coal isn’t good — of course, I do not think we should be burning coal for energy. Like one thousand percent. No one is disagreeing with you there. It’s more that — I also like bridges and skyscrapers and wind turbines, so I need to have a nuanced view.
I was very disappointed, my sophomore year, because the conservative magazine [Athwart] was started, and I think the opinion section of The Catalyst was a great place for conversations and discussions. And so I kind of felt bad, and I felt like I had failed in a way. The conservative voices who were using The Catalyst felt over-edited — I felt like I had failed, because I think everyone should be able to write for The Catalyst and be in the opinion section if they want.
I’m obsessed with the opinion section, I love when there’s a side-to-side — like two perspectives on the same issue, you know? So yeah, that was disappointing for me, because I think that the conversation then — when it’s a separate magazine and not The Catalyst, the student publication, it gives people the option not to read it. They just don’t pick up the magazine. And if it were in The Catalyst, I think there could be more conversation.
Some views are marginalized at CC. Of course. That’s the culture, that’s any liberal arts school, I think. But it’s a real shame that The Catalyst couldn’t be a place for that to be amended in a way.
You know, I haven’t been consuming as much news as I usually would during COVID. I try to read a couple articles a day, but I feel like my bandwidth has just decreased so much. What I’ve been reflecting on a lot, while I’ve been home, is just the role of local papers. I live in a small town and we don’t have a newspaper anymore. It went out of business. And during a situation like COVID, I think that local newspapers are more important than ever.
It seems like all these issues are so global, or broader, like the news is — this many people died in the whole country — but when it’s your community, and you don’t have a publication that’s serving just your community, it feels less real in a way.
I have no clue [what the future of journalism is], and I am increasingly becoming concerned about the role of untrustworthy news sources on social media and stuff, but I really don’t know. I feel so much has changed even in the past year that [the news] is it’s own animal, and any prediction that I would make would just make me sound silly in the end.
I think I’ve always been really bizarre about being, like, ‘The Catalyst is the historical record of Colorado College!’ and that’s not usually how you should see a newspaper, it should usually be, at least for someone in an EiC position like us, it should be more like ‘Oh we’re delivering the news’ — but for me, I so feel it’s a historical document, like we are building history in a way.
So Block 8 my sophomore year I took a history class, and one of our projects was to go through The Catalyst archives and do, like, a bit of CC history. So I found a Catalyst [issue] that talked about when Title IX was first instituted, these women at the college — the gym wasn’t really a woman-friendly place — maybe it’s not still? I don’t know — but they didn’t have a locker room. So these young women met up in Loomis and they just went and they put on their sweats — it was the early 70s — and ran a couple laps around the gym, and got in everyone’s face.
They were doing something extraordinary at the time, basically, and afterwards they were like, OK, we want to shower. ‘Cause that’s what you do after you work out in the locker room. So they just went into the guy’s locker room and — I don’t know if they showered, but it was called a “shower-in” and I thought it was so badass and I learned about that from The Catalyst.
That’s why I love the Historical Equity Project so much — that’s historical information about CC that comes from The Catalyst. It’s so cool. I just love history, I guess [laughs]. I’m a political science major and a history minor. I think a lot of people think I’m a history major because I’m obsessed with history.
Something I heard — that could just be a rumor, but I love it — is that The Catalyst got their funding cut in like the early 2000s or something, and the Editor-in-Chief at the time slept on the steps of the president’s house. It could very well be true, considering CC, but I just love that in a way I’m connected to that person, and I’m connected to everyone who’s written for The Catalyst. I love that there’s a constant link between everyone who’s worked at The Catalyst.
Get involved in The Catalyst! I can’t say it enough. Even just read it — read the damn thing. Your fellow students work so hard, and you can learn — you think you know everything that’s going on on campus because it’s so small, but you don’t know the first thing. It’s almost like a brochure on how to get involved and what cool things your fellow students are doing.
Even if it’s just reading it, engage with The Catalyst. I really think it’s one of the best parts about CC.
And I would also say — I should give some whimsical advice — take weird classes! CC has weird classes and you should take a couple of them. Those are the ones that you’re going to remember forever, and you’re going to be nonstop talking about them. This isn’t really a weird class, but one of the classes I talk most about is — I took History of Korea freshman year, and I can’t get enough about talking about Korea now [laughs].
So if anything looks even slightly interesting to you, or you’re intrigued by it, do it. You have four years to soak up as much as possible — and when are you going to be in a dedicated position in your life where all you have to do is learn? It’s so valuable. I sound like such a fucking nerd [laughs].”