Feature Stories Campus Events

Chances Behind the Microphone Broadcast journalism opportunities have been plentiful at W&L for Ford Carson '18, but the highlight of his college career has been founding a satirical publication, The Radish.

“W&L is an incubator – it shows you all sides, supports you from every angle, and leaves the choices to you. W&L has been my best choice yet.”

Ford Carson ’18

Hometown: Roanoke, Virginia
Major: Sociology
Minor: Mass Communications

I think “eccentric” would best describe my collegiate experience, which I consider a natural product of W&L’s greatest strength — its commitment to liberal arts education. An EMT in high school, I entered college with plans of becoming a general practitioner, but to complete my foundational requirements I took an eclectic mix of courses ranging from philosophy to Spanish to business. Two fascinating summer internships with Professor Jon Eastwood sparked an interest in political sociology, and two in D.C. steered my focus to political journalism. It was my extracurriculars that got me into broadcasting, and I’ve since discovered that broadcast journalism is where my talents, skills and interests all intersect.

My personal strategy to figuring out my future has always been to take advantage of my present opportunities, and W&L offers many, many chances to get behind the microphone. I have hosted a weekly radio show since I arrived on campus, I have anchored news and weather for the Rockbridge Report, and I served as the official announcer for Mock Con 2016. I am also very active in W&L sports broadcasting, where I have called or announced over 30 varsity athletic events to date.

Thanks to the Johnson Scholarship’s summer stipend, my summers have been just as eventful. The stipend allowed me to accept two low-paying editorial internships in D.C. – one at C-SPAN and one at RealClearPolitics – where I got to do some truly memorable things. I covered Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement from a little white chair in the Rose Garden; I spent one Saturday as the official White House press pool reporter, following Trump around for 15 hours and reporting updates to the rest of the media; I interviewed over a dozen U.S. Senators and published 16 original articles; I voiced a television promo that was aired nationally.

Those are all great memories and I am very thankful for them, but I think the highlight of my time at W&L has been my work with The Radish, a satirical online publication I founded to parody everyday life at our small, private school in Lexington, Virginia. I launched the site over Reading Days in 2016, and since then have published more than 150 submissions from almost 100 different students, professors and alumni. The website has been viewed 115,000 times in the last year and reaches between 5,000 and 10,000 unique Facebook profiles per week. I serve as The Radish’s editor-in-chief and head writer, and it is the most fun group project I have ever been part of. Typical topics range from freshmen to Greek life to W&L’s political leanings, and writing and editing these articles has been the outlet I needed to bring the anxiety down a notch and put everything in perspective. I hope it has given others even a tiny fraction of the stress relief it has given me.

As most good ideas I’ve had in college, The Radish started as a GroupMe brainstorming session among my fraternity brothers. I can always count on them for support, whether it’s a thumbs up, an exploration of an idea, or a “You Are Not At All Funny And I Don’t Like Your Voice,” which is the kind of support that only a true brother can give. Our GroupMe is an incubator in the same way that W&L is an incubator – it shows you all sides, supports you from every angle, and leaves the choices to you. W&L has been my best choice yet.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

A little more about Ford

Extracurricular involvement:
Peer Counselor, Volunteer Venture Trip Leader, WLUR, W&L Sports Broadcasting, Washington Term, The Radish, Summer Research Scholar, First-Year Orientation Committee, Lambda Chi Alpha
Why did you choose your major?
Malcolm Gladwell. I picked up his first book as a sophomore in high school and was instantly hooked on all things “networks.”
Has anyone on campus inspired you?
Professor Jon Eastwood. There’s a saying in the department that “You don’t major in sociology, you major in Eastwood,” which I could not agree with more. He has more heavily impacted my time at W&L than any other person, student or otherwise.
What’s your personal motto?
Why be the change you’d like to see in the world when you can critique it from afar?
Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Subway, without hesitation. I’ll have a foot-long oven-roasted chicken sub with pepper Jack cheese (toasted, please), lettuce, spinach, jalapeños, and just a bit of Subway vinaigrette.
What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
Organic chemistry is an evil, evil thing.
Post-graduation plans:
I’d like to start work with a local television station in Roanoke.
Favorite W&L memory:
Being the “Voice of God” (yes, it’s actually called that) for Mock Convention.
Favorite class:
Intro to Sociology, with Eastwood
Favorite W&L event:
Fancy Dress
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I was voted Most Likely to Become President in both preschool and high school. I have not, for some reason, been awarded the same distinction in college.
Why did you choose W&L?
My dad and sister are ‘88L and ’16, respectively, and W&L is just an hour up the road from my hometown. I could not bear to pass up the friendly and familiar atmosphere the school continues to offer me, and thanks to the Johnson Scholarship, I didn’t have to. W&L really is college utopia, and I feel so lucky to be here.