Amanda Krotki is a former News Editor for The Retriever. She is now a Content Manager for CMN, Inc.
My Retriever years took place in the ‘90s. We were a ragtag bunch of proud-to-be Gen-Xers that conducted itself like the characters in a very special episode of “My So Called Life.”
Our plaid flannel-and Doc Marten-clad gang spent all of its free time in the newspaper’s office on the second floor of the Student Union draped over hand-me-down, half-broken, mismatched furniture surrounded by empty Jolt cans, arguing the merits of the Kevin Smith project du jour.
The campus radio station played REM and They Might Be Giants. We stood in line at the box office outside The Pub waiting for the latest big concert tickets to go on sale (in line, not online). I moshed to Fugazi in the Ballroom. I saw “Pulp Fiction” at Westview Cinemas in Catonsville. We drank Zima and smoked those fancy clove cigarettes in the dorms. We lived by the words of both Bret Easton Ellis and Douglas Coupland.
And in one of the defining moments of the era, I was in The Retriever’s darkroom (analog, baby) when I first heard Kurt Cobain was dead. That afternoon, we spent a few disbelieving hours sitting around, listening to “Nevermind,” shaking our heads.
As a feisty, yet nerdy, English major at UMBC, The Retriever was my haunt, my escape, my comfort zone, my office and my teacher. My epicenter.
I can’t say with any degree of certainty that Earth-shattering journalism ever took place, but I do know we consistently pissed off almost every student group on campus. There were even occasions when a few of The Retriever staff members were summoned to President Freeman Hrabowski’s office – accompanied by advisor Professor Chris Corbett – to discuss whatever controversial article we had just printed. I looked forward to these visits, though. Aside from the positive teachable moment that accompanied almost any Hrabowski encounter, there were always bottles of water available for the taking. I also have a vague recollection of chocolate-covered strawberries on a silver tray, but that can’t be right – can it?
Though I’m no longer working in journalism, my time at The Retriever and my Corbett mentorship set me on a decades-long journey during which I crossed paths with several other Retriever alumni in various professional settings – and they were often my favorite, most respected colleagues. (I’m looking at you Feiler, Valentine, Gross and Pyles.) And because this is Smalltimore, some of them are even my nearest and dearest friends to this day. Working on the paper taught me all the core skills I would successfully use throughout my career. I’m still manically deadline-adherent, violently allergic to typos and opposed to libel lawsuits.
Corbett taught all of us that living a little makes for better writing. We polka danced at Blob’s Park (as one did), we placed dollars in unmentionable places at Club Atlantis (as one did) and we hung out expectantly at Zissimos in Hampden (as one never did if one knew what was good for her).
Since those wide-eyed early years of practicing journalism to change the world, I’ve become much more cynical, but I still collect life experiences for the good of the story. And, yeah, I’m still wearing my Doc Martens.