Review: The Beggar Blade’s First Year

Much of what we think we know about the newspaper business often comes from fast-paced films and novels that have dynamic characters chasing down stories.  An example of this can be found in the 1974 novel and 1976 film, All the President’s Men.  It follows journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they investigate a suspicious robbery at the Watergate Building in Washington D.C.  As they press further into the story, they find a cover up that leads all the way to the Oval Office. The movie is well done, but misleading because within two hours you see months and months of investigation unfold. 

In another classic newspaper movie, Citizen Kane, the main character, Charles Foster Kane, learns that he owns a small newspaper.  Though he is a multimillionaire with holdings in steel, shipping, and gold mines, he writes to his guardian, Mr. Thatcher, that “it would be fun to run a newspaper.”  As I watch these movies, I begin to think, “This looks like fun.  I think I can do this.” Perhaps many of you have had similar thoughts.

The reality is that journalism is fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work.  As we wrap the first year of producing The Beggar Blade, I believe our editors and writing staff now have a better understanding of what it takes to produce a newspaper.  Deadlines are tight.  Interviews are challenging.  Stories don’t write themselves.

The Beggar Blade is a simple concept.  It’s a place to practice journalism and to be published.  More than this, it’s a place where some will develop their voice while others discover a voice they didn’t know they had.  As the paper’s adviser, I am proud of our staff.  Since we launched in October, they wrote 75 articles and published 25 weekly editions.  They had over 2,000 unique visitors with over 12,000 different page views.  (That means the visitors looked at more than the front page.)  They had readers from all over the U.S. and Canada as well as folks from around the world including Costa Rica, Bangladesh, and The Netherlands.  The most read article was Emily Van Dyke’s “Light Up Your Christmas Spirit on Thoroughbred Street” with 279 unique readers.  A very close second was Ben Lensch’s article on actor Tony Hale’s visit to the Providence campus last month.  It had 269 unique readers over the last two weeks.

Our editors have stayed up late on Thursday nights to make sure our copy was without grammar and punctuation errors.  Sure, they’ve missed some typos, but I have been amazed by their commitment to see the paper thrive.  Editor-in-Chief Ben Lensch deserves much of the credit for this year’s success.  He tracked down “lost” stories, re-wrote sentences that needed polishing, and wrangled writers at the last minute to capture a breaking story.  Of course every good leader needs managers who will help him through the day-to-day grind.  Laurelinda Larkins and Carissa Knol were exceptional in their roles as managing editor and copy editor respectively.

I’m already looking forward to The Beggar Blade’s second volume of work next fall.  We’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work.   We’ve learned how to communicate with each other better.  We’ve learned that waiting until the last second won’t make for a well-written story.  Sure, newspapers can be “fun to run”, but they take a lot of hard work – work that is both challenging and rewarding.

Note:  If you would like to write for The Beggar Blade, please send me an email at