This week I am pleased to allow you to snoop through award-winning social issues columnist and author
Walter Brasch’s desk!
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By Walter Brasch
About seven years after I began college teaching and had just been promoted to full professor of mass communications, the university assigned me a corner office with windows. Others were envious; some jealous.
I saw it as just another cramped 10 x 10 office that had to accommodate two file cabinets, four sets of bookshelves, my desk and computer, plus (at most) myself and two students.
About 15 years ago, after the magazine I was advising had begun winning major national awards, I realized that I would easily trade a “choice” office for something more reasonable. In this case, the university, with some hesitation—universities don’t move quickly on anything—decided to break down a classroom into a magazine lab plus my adjoining office. There were no windows for the office; it wasn’t even as nice as my previous office. But, it had one advantage. It would be almost three times the size. I needed the space, especially for informal chats with students. Others didn’t understand. Giving up a “new” corner office with windows for a basic office with no windows seemed—well—odd. To me status was never where one’s office is, and I had no intention of being a New York business executive anyhow.
An office, to me, is a place to work, not to showcase. No need for “prestigious” location—no need for overpriced chairs and accessories. Most of my college work, including class preparation, was done at the college. My writing and other work was almost always done at home.
My home office is comfortable. It does have windows to my backyard and, if you push it, it is a corner office. But, usually only my wife and I work there, so we impress no one else.
The office area desk is large and workable, not large and impressive. To my left is a 2-drawer filing cabinet and bookshelves, some with knick-knacks, some with books. A 12-slot file sorter on the desk helps me keep things in semi-organized fashion. On top of it is a relatively inexpensive color inkjet printer. Below the desk top, on left, is another two-drawer file cabinet. Also on the desk to my left are a telephone, pens, notecards. As a journalist, I use the telephone a lot. It is a landline telephone; I do a lot of radio interviews, and landlines are far superior than the ubiquitous cell phones. And, speaking of cell phones—while millions have it as their only communications device, loaded with hundreds of apps—mine is five years old, has an external antenna, and works nicely when I’m traveling and don’t have access to another phone.
To the right on my desk are a 6-slot organizer, stapler, tape, an inexpensive but fast black-and-white laser printer. and a small audio mixer, which is critical when I do MP3 commentaries to send to radio stations.
My computer, with wireless router and speakers, is in the center. My monitor is still a CRT. Both are four years old, and I see no reason to upgrade. They do what I want them to do, and do it well. At the college, my students and I had state-of-the-art equipment and the latest software. But, the quality of research and writing, as I told them repeatedly, is not in the equipment, but in the brain. Great computer system may make things more efficient; they won’t make the writing any better.
To the right of my desk are a small bookcase and a storage cabinet; on top of it is a good fax machine. To their right are another two-drawer file and a paper shredder.
Out of sight in the photo are wall-mounted cabinets, the music system, and more bookcases.
I have done my best the past couple of years to digitize most of my paper. As a writer who was part of America’s first all-digital newspaper 16 years ago, and who is still a columnist or editor with several online publications, I understand the value of the digital community, and have nothing but praise for what Sassy is doing. However, I prefer to read books, newspapers, and magazines in print format, and I still like to see things, to feel things, to look at things in hard copy. It’s a feel you can’t get on a screen. That’s why all the storage. Alas, I do most of my research now by phone or online; a Skype videocam is somewhere on the desk. Alas, shoe leather journalism is fading, as are my knees and back.
Just as there’s no possibility that I’ll ever be featured in GQ or People, neither will my office or home be in Architectural Digest. But they are what I think are most important—comfortable and workable.
One other thing—this is where I created Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, a journalistic novel that looks at the counterculture from the Civil Rights movement into the anti-war protests of the 1960s and 1970s, Woodstock, Kent State killings, environmental issues (including the problems of “clean” nuclear energy vs. war for oil), and the rise of the “Me First Generation.” The book has received some strong pre-publication praise, incpudiong comments from Michael Blake (Dances With Wolves) and Dan Rather. Also, please check out a Youtube video. Thank you