My friend Kevin did a very cool thing the summer after our freshman year. We had both been writing about sports for The Daily Northwestern all year, but he wanted to cover the football team year round, and provide more recruiting coverage and analysis than a normal daily newspaper would allow. So he and another friend, Chris, started an independent WordPress site called InsideNU — a home for basketball and football news, videos, columns and gifs. That webpage, a project two college sophomores started without professional help, is now the Northwestern-dedicated SB Nation site.
For those unfamiliar with SB Nation, that last sentence was meant to be a “gasp” moment. Sports Blog Nation is a hugely popular sports network with hundreds of blogs, dedicated to every professional and college sporting team you would want to read about. There are normal, full-time working adults who write for and manage sites at SB Nation. Kevin is a senior in college.
He and a couple of other friends started out small, driving around the Midwest blogging about Northwestern football games and practices and out-of-season basketball news, and grew the site little by little. Kevin and co. built the blog from the ground up, placing ads so the site could make some money, and quickly become a constant presence in the relatively small Northwestern sports media. Then, at the end of junior year, Kevin went to do his Journalism Residency, an eleven-week journalism internship that Medill requires, at Vox Media. Among other things, Vox owns SB Nation.
Kevin was doing great work over at Vox, and they eventually worked out a deal to adopt InsideNU into the SB Nation family. The site got a professional re-design, and largely due to the incredible amount of hard work, passion and time that Kevin, Chris and all the writers at InsideNU had put in over just a few years, the site launched as an official SB Nation blog this past summer. Kevin and a handful of undergraduates at Northwestern still manage the blog today.
A quick note about Kevin and InsideNU: I chose to blog about this story because Kevin is a friend I admire, and because I know his work well, having sat with him in multiple press boxes over the years. But truthfully, I could have written about any number of friends. Although Kevin’s feat of determination and self-motivation is impressive, it’s not necessarily unusual at Northwestern. I don’t mean to minimize the work the InsideNU peeps have done, but I have friends who have covered the Republican National Convention with CNN as college juniors, whose writing has been published on national media outlets such as the Huffington Post, and who have developed apps that can now be bought on iTunes. The bottom line is students at NU do cool things all the time, big scale and small scale — for every nationally recognized undergrad there’s someone who’s just doing a fascinating research project they wouldn’t have been able to do anywhere else. Northwestern has a great academic reputation, but a huge part of the school is that it’s a place that fosters this exciting culture of creativity and innovation.