Joe Pinsker was the Managing Editor from January 2012 to December 2012.
This piece is part of a series of personal narratives written by Street alumni in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of 34th Street.
I wish I had more exciting stories to tell about my time on staff at Street. There was that one night—my first seeing an issue out the door as Managing Editor—when I took a call at approximately 4 a.m. from a classmate in Tabard. She was furious at what she’d heard was already on its way to the printers for The Round Up (or The Gutter, or whatever our thankfully–now–defunct gossip column was called then) and she threatened legal action; I went to sleep worrying I’d be sued into oblivion. I woke up with nary a lawyer on my doorstep, and life went on.
The rest of my time at Street was not terribly dramatic. It was, however, contagiously fun, starting with the writers’ meeting I attended the first week of my first year on campus. I didn’t leave until custom said I had to, mid–way through my senior year, and even then I stuck around to review some restaurants with my pal and photographer Adrian Franco, (W ’13). (Nothing tastes as good as a comped meal.) I have heard that since I graduated, The DP’s roof access has been restricted—it’s a shame, given how much hanging out happened there before, during, and after staff meetings.
For a group of people having as much fun as we did—not to mention keeping up with schoolwork and a punishing social environment—we certainly put out a product of unexpectedly high quality (usually). What strikes me now, five years out, is just how similar the work I did then is to the work I do now, from questions about framing stories to debates over even the smallest decisions about diction. Working on Street didn’t “prepare” me for a journalism job so much as give me the chance to do one without having to graduate first. The number of my Street peers who are working in journalism, already producing excellent work in their young careers, is a testament to this.
The Street of the early 2010s, as I saw it, was defined by the attention it paid to things in Philadelphia that weren’t Penn. We’d do a lot of service journalism (where to eat, what to do, etc.) but also features and shorter pieces whose underlying message was, "Hey, there’s a big, interesting city out there, where a lot of people think differently than Penn students. Maybe check it out?" In retrospect I view this as our reaction to the fact that many of our classmates tuned out the vibrancy of the city around them in favor of the often barbaric order and traditions of an elite college campus.
A strange feature of graduating in the Class of 2013 is that after we left, the nature of campus life changed across the country, and quite quickly. The debates and scandals and protests and suicides that followed soon after read back then as somewhat foreign to me, even though a year or two earlier I had been in college myself. Since then, I’ve been impressed to see how Street has, accordingly, turned its attention back on Penn, covering racism, gender discrimination, sexual assault, mental health, and the school’s norms around eating, drinking, and ingesting. My successors made the wise choice to look inward. I’m eager to see what their successors do with a magazine that will always be dear to me.
Joe Pinsker is a staff writer at The Atlantic.