“To be a journalist is to be a professional dilettante,” English Professor Marin Heinritz once said. Colin Smith ‘15 takes this to heart as he pursues a music and media writing career. During his time at Kalamazoo College, Smith took more English department classes than courses for his history major and American studies concentration. He took every journalism class offered, and became the Editor-in-Chief of The Index in the 2014-2015 school year.
Smith came to The Index by chance. Smith met The Index’s then Editor-in-Chief Matthew Muñoz ‘14 on the first day of class. Smith had never written journalistic-style articles until he started to write hard news for The Index.
“I’ve always had the inkling to write, but I never had many opportunities before college to really have the structures and supports to dive into something like journalism,” East Grand Rapids High School graduate Smith said. “It was just all about good timing and bumping into the editor-in-chief at the right time.”
He was a staff writer for his first three years, and started doing freelance work and writing for Naked magazine in his sophomore year. He started out with hard news writing finding it to be a good way to become involved on campus, but gravitated towards music writing.
During his year as editor-in-chief, he pushed the editorial team to have an online presence and to be taken more seriously. “Before, when I was a freshman, I vaguely recall people reading the paper and making fun of it and looking for copy edit mistakes, basically just to have something to talk sh*t about,” he said. “We really put our heads together and made sure that we had a tight system so we would print a high quality paper every single week. We really worked hard on getting the right copy editor and page editors, and every Tuesday night looking at the paper a thousand times to make sure that it looked good.”
Now he does music and arts freelance journalism, works part time for Illinois Humanities, and does part-time textbook editing for lower-income communities and victims of environmental injustice in Chicago. He also jumps into entrepreneurship opportunities when given the chance.
“[Working with The Index] made me really good at sticking to deadlines, and also gave me the opportunity to explore the greater Kalamazoo artistic community,” Smith said. “In this day and age, it’s really hard to find a full-time writing job, but it’s so worthwhile because it gives you that license to be curious, and gives you that permission to do that. Having that sort of license really helps me and gave me the confidence in doing what I’m doing now.”
In addition to his blooming writing career, Smith considers music as a serious gig and practices every day. He was in a band while at K, and is in one in Chicago now. “I definitely got bit by the music bug when I was in high school learning how to write songs and play guitar,” Smith said. While at K, he was in the College Choir and added alto saxophone and jazz guitar to his already long list of music interests.
He also enjoys film photography and “capturing a lot of color and texture and tone in a way that really speaks to [him].” He does digital photography to help with his music and art media freelance work.
Smith advises those with any interest in media to “stick with it, because you never know what could happen. I didn’t expect to be involved with music festivals but my skills have been applicable and helpful to people. With journalism today it’s really hard to find a job, but it’s really easy to start a career.”