May 13, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Jon Lamson | Illustration by Sydney Morris

To all my loyal Catalyst readers, this is where I leave you. Article 28 … to all my editors, co-workers, other writers – thanks for everything and I’m sorry.

Get a load of this.

In September of 2019, for my first article at Colorado College’s award-winning student newspaper (1985, Rocky Mountain Collegiate Press Association: first place for ‘General Excellence’), I wrote “A Short Guide to Pooping Outside,” an article discussing the dos and don’ts of pooping in the great outdoors, and included a five-star outdoor poop rating system.

This news was steaming hot at the time, and I dare say it’s still fresh today. So, it’s time for number two. To briefly review and revise the rating system –

One star: A standard-yet-successful poop. If anything, a bit boring. Two stars: A poop with a view. Majestic scenery, whatever this means to you. Three stars: A poop with wildlife. A nice view is great, but who doesn’t love the company of a friendly animal companion? Four stars: A poop with wildlife AND and a view. The champagne of wilderness poops. Five stars: Very rare. Almost too rare. A five-star-poop requires prolonged eye contact with an animal that is pooping in unison with you. Birds don’t count and subtract half a star for the lack of a view.

In the time since I first sniffed around this subject, researchers have found that even with a proper poop burial, harmful bacteria can still linger in the soil. In popular outdoor recreation sites, this has resulted in dangerous accumulations of pathogens.

For example: pooping on Yampa. If one or two people dug and covered their poop in adequate holes, there may not be any issues. But if everybody pooped on Yampa every day for the indefinite future, the school’s pride and joy – the Ed Robson Arena – could soon be enveloped in a sickening stench.

Instead of burying our poop when we’re enjoying these popular outdoor spaces, the responsible thing to do is to pack out all poop in waste alleviation and gelling (WAG) bags, whenever possible.

My apologies to all our readers with weak stomachs. I really do hate to invoke images of the Ed Robson Arena. And my apologies to the CC administration for repeatedly dumping on the new hockey arena (strictly metaphorically, of course).

But there is a larger point to make here about the role The Catalyst plays on campus beyond just publishing silly poop articles.

CC has plenty of serious campus issues that need reporting on – the chronic lack of housing, the school’s responses to Title IX complaints, low wages for workers across campus (not just for Bon Appetit), the financial aid program, exorbitant overinvestment in our losing hockey team, etc.

There’s a lot of bullshit, and while good journalism can’t solve all of the school’s problems, it can force some changes – or at least keep those in charge accountable.

Across the country, newspapers have been hit hard by a steep decline in advertising revenue, a long-term trend exacerbated by the pandemic. The other paper I consistently write for – Boston’s only remaining alt weekly – just suspended print operations for the second time since the onset of the pandemic. And as independent papers die off, the city is stuck in the splash-zone between one paper that endorsed Trump in 2020 and another owned by a billionaire asshole.

Papers like The Catalyst aren’t perfect: writers get paid just $15 per article, and the pay for editors isn’t much better – nobody’s doing it for the money here. My first poop article was filled with typos, and perhaps this one is too. But The Catalyst, like many other student newspapers across the country, gives students the chance to experiment in their writing, and gain experience in editing and producing a paper each week.

And perhaps most importantly, The Catalyst gives almost complete creative control to writers, barring a few ethical and stylistic confines. Cutler Publications, the nonprofit that oversees The Catalyst (along with three other student publications), provides a strong barrier between the administration and the paper, no matter how angry the donors get.

Editorial independence is a world of possibility, and I encourage CC’s younger generation of writers, journalists, and editors to utilize it as much as possible. What that looks like is up to you – be it calling out the college for their copious crap or making 20-plus poop references in one article – there’s no limit to what you can doodoo.

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