Everything I Learned About New York Media I Learned At Columbia

Full disclosure: I graduated Barnard College in '05, and while there, wrote for the campus newspaper, The Columbia Spectator.

Columbia University prides itself in being in the city of New York; that's literally their slogan. Even if Morningside Heights is Manhattan lite, there are very real elements of New York living there. For one, with Barnard, the female to male ratio is two to one, giving Columbia females a head start on real life New York dating. For two, Columbia student journalists take themselves as seriously as real New York journalists do. From the years I was at the Columbia Spectator, two reporters went onto Newsweek, one is tenured at the Washington Post, someone else is at Fortune and another has his own blog at Slate. That's why the latest campus controversy over the Bwog, the blog of the campus publication the Blue & White is no surprise. A tipster writes about upheaval on the site: The new editor is alienating writers, the Bwog has lost its focus, along with its campus cachet. Sound familiar?

At Columbia, the Spectator is like the New York Times. Yes, there are problems, institutional and otherwise, but it remains the must-read campus publication. The Blue & White is like the New Yorker, containing book reviews, profiles of campus characters, witty asides, but only read, and written by, an elite group of effete students. When the Blue & White launched the Bwog the year after I graduated, it soon became the Gawker of Columbia.

Campus drama is a bubble, so media drama within a campus is perhaps too insular to take seriously. The tipster's complaint &mdash that the Bwog has resorted to criticizing campus publications &mdash is old news. Josie Swindler (one of my former editors at the Spec) did a fascinating piece on race at the Spectator for the Blue & White in 2006. Swindler took the issue as seriously as the New Yorker would writing about the Times.

But according to the tipster, things are down a notch on the Bwog. The site mocks the Barnard Bulletin's soduku box. (By the way, has anyone noticed the Post's word scramble is totally sucking lately?)

I emailed a friend who graduated after me about to ask about this and she said, "it sounds like a group of sore-losers who want some bigger media attention ... the Bwog was originally almost purely vicious and intended to criticize other students and other publications ... things change when editors change, esp at campus publications."

The bad news, tipster, is that you might be a sore loser. The good news is that Columbia has prepared you for the real world. Or at least the internet part of the real world.