Alumni Insights: Chris Walker '11

I am a writer and reporter, with credits ranging across many publications including The Atlantic, NPR, Huffington Post, Forbes, and LA Weekly.  

But when I joined the Communication Studies department my freshman year at UCLA, that was never part of the game plan. I wanted to be in the music industry. If you had told me I would later become a reporter, I would have laughed. In fact, I hated writing.

Thankfully, my Comm Studies classes forced me to buckle down. Looking back, I think all the essays I wrote for my classes were the most helpful thing I did in college. While I barely remember the contents, like comparing Mean World Syndrome and Propaganda theories, the base of practice they laid allowed me to become a more effective communicator, and explore other types of writing. My Junior Year I took up a job working at LA Weekly as a music reporter. It meant getting free tickets to major concerts like Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival. Suddenly writing wasn't so lame...

Then came the big trip. In Fall 2011, a buddy from high school called me with the idea of biking from France to China. My decision to join him and cycle 16,000 miles through 23 countries would change my life.

Using ideas that I’d picked up in classes such as Jim Newton’s Ethics of Journalism course, I pursued a variety of stories while cycling across Eurasia. I treated the trip as a sort of graduate school in journalism, and slowly developed a model of storytelling that engaged readers back home. It took nearly a year before editors at major magazines started returning my emails, but by the end of the journey I was being featured in national publications. My stories included a call center training class in India, investigating orphanage tourism in Cambodia, exposing gambling rings and child boxing in Thailand, and writing about government surveillance in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Now I can’t imagine doing anything else besides writing.

And I certainly have the Comm Studies department to thank for making me bust my chops.