Thursday, March 18, 2010

Joan Walsh, Class of 1976, Editor-in-Chief, Salon.com

Interview with Joan Walsh, Class of 1976
Editor-in-Chief, Salon.com
Q & A response with Jenny Heyden, March 18, 2010

1. You graduated in 1976. What was Shorewood High School like then - what memories of the regular day-to-day life do you have of coming to school here?

I just remember how cool it was to go building to building, between classes, in high school!

What clubs or extracurricular activities were you in at Shorewood?

I was very active in Shorewood Ripples, became the editor middle of senior year. I got elected to student council and I don't know how during senior year.

2. What were some of the unexpected things that you feel maybe influenced you the most?

Everything was unexpected! I was in high school! I guess one thing that was unexpected -- and looking back, knowing other friends' experience of high school, not that common -- was really, how much room there was to move from group to group. I'm not sure I appreciated it at the time; how could I, with no other experience. But in the years following, and certainly at our 20th reunion, it was really remarkable how jocks hung out with drama club kids, who hung out with scholars, who hung out with freaks, who hung out with cheerleaders, etc. When our high school quarterback (and basketball center) Gary Morrison died, way too young, in 2006, it really caused a lot of us to reflect on how Gary was part of the way people moved between groups. In movies and legend, jock stars in his role were at the high school pinnacle and set a tone of putting down everyone else; he was friends with kids in every group, and that helped set a very different tone.

3. Where did you go after leaving this fine school - college, major, college again, next major?

I got a BA in history at UW-Madison, a great experience that built on my Shorewood years (lots of friends went too). Got a job at a paper in SB thanks to Madison graduates, never went back to grad school though I'd planned to (at least, not yet!)

4. How did you come to Salon.com?

Came aboard in '98, three years after founding. But I was the first news editor, so I was part of realizing the Web was going to be about news, more than cultural commentary.

5. Tell me you owe all of your entrepreneurial spirit and wisdom to your high school years at Shorewood.

I really do owe my love of journalism to Michael Huth, the sponsor of Ripples. He sent me out on a story on Title IX, which established funding for women's athletics, when I had no idea what it was. And I still (not often enough) read poetry because of Mr. Huth.

6. Is there anything that you would say you hope is still happening at Shorewood High School?

I would hope there is still the spirit of mixing between groups.

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