Veteran staffer recalls love for the job

My first week in The Famuan was the bomb.


Moments after I submitted my first article, members of the staff got word that Lee Hall had been bombed.

While the bomb only singed the walls of the main floor bathroom, it was enough to send fear into others that some crazed idiot was lurking around trying to destroy the family-like environment at FAMU.

“Who’s going to the press conference?” somebody asked.

“Who’s talking to students?”

“Who’s going to Foote/Hilyer?”

Enter the wide-eyed freshman from Detroit, only recently broken in to The Famuan style. I was nervous about the bomb, and had my calling card in hand to make sure mom knew I was all right.

“What are you doing?” asked the editor at the time, Omar Kelly.

“Not much, why?”

“We might need you to go to this press conference or talk to a few people.”

And so it was.

I spent 4 hours talking to students, listening to news reports and running back and forth to Lee Hall for press conferences held by various administrative officials trying to calm the fears of freshman like me who were angry and fearful of another attack.

In a way, it shielded me from what was going on – students calling home and being told to arrange to come home. They were no longer Rattlers.

By not being allowed to panic, my call home waited until I was calmer and my new family – which consisted of The Famuan staff – reassured me of my decision to travel more than a thousand miles to attend a historically black university.

Events such as the bombing on Lee Hall, the subsequent bombing at Perry Paige, the capturing and convicting of the man responsible, the possibility of football coach Billy Joe leaving, the Spring 2003 elections marred with scandal and ruthless tactics and many similar events have played out largely on the pages of The Famuan.

While the newspaper’s staff is given the stigma of being bourgeois and egotistical, it’s all because we take pride in our product.

Liken us to a fraternity or sorority, where you pay your dues (in money and sweat) to get your letters. Those organizations provide services and functions for the betterment of the University. And so do we.

And in the process you make a few lifelong friends.

Tanya Caldwell, a senior magazine production student, was my deputy news editor in the spring of 2003. We were a team, along with two other ladies, who decided not to take anything from officials on campus – only to get our work done. We bonded over stories written about the SGA that didn’t sit too well with the organization.

Renasia Scott, a spring 2000 newspaper journalism graduate, was the managing editor during my second semester on staff. I worked closely with her on stories for my section. We often went to dinner, took road trips and I even beat her at Scrabble from time to time.

Rahkia Nance, a spring 2004 newspaper journalism graduate, was deputy copy desk chief when I was the paper’s editor in chief. On weekends, I took her, along with the other members of the copy desk, out to lunch where we, at first, talked about the paper. However, the lunches always evolved into random ramblings about other’s lives.

In the organizations you belong to, you have your Renasias, Tanyas and Rahkias. You also have your Johndel Barretts, Collin Chappelles, Crystal Mitchells and Robbyn Mitchells – people who are still around, and sometimes you couldn’t make it without their presence.

The Famuan is just like any other organization on campus. It has its ups and downs. And I can honestly say there’s no other place I would have rather been.

Marlon A. Walker is a senior newspaper journalism student from Detroit. Contact him at