2012-06-23 / News

Town Crier Staff Has A Passion For Writing, Sharing in Community

By Matt Mikus

Andrew Marlan (left) and James Dau join Mackinac Island reporter Matt Mikus to cover events and news on Mackinac Island for the Mackinac Island Town Crier this summer. Mr. Marlan is a senior studying journalism, and Mr. Dau is a second-year graduate student in journalism, both at Michigan State University. Andrew Marlan (left) and James Dau join Mackinac Island reporter Matt Mikus to cover events and news on Mackinac Island for the Mackinac Island Town Crier this summer. Mr. Marlan is a senior studying journalism, and Mr. Dau is a second-year graduate student in journalism, both at Michigan State University. Anyone who has ever lived or visited Mackinac Island knows that this place holds thousands of stories, and the interns at Mackinac Island Town Crier will spend the summer recording a piece of the experience every week. Andrew Marlan and James Dau, two Michigan State University journalism students, cover events and news on Mackinac Island this summer, and both plan to improve their professional writing skills before returning to East Lansing in the fall.

Andrew Marlan

Mr. Marlan, 20, is from Holt, where he lives with his mother and stepfather, JoAnne and Dan Romanek, his sister, Katie, a senior at Holt High School, and his two stepbrothers, Matthew and Brandon Romanek, a junior and freshman, respectively.

“I’ve always had a passion for writing,” said Mr. Marlan, “and I grew up watching the news with my parents. I like to know what’s going on.”

His first experience in the journalism profession came while in fifth grade, when he was asked to work on a weekly news article for his elementary school.

“I thought it was cool to have my name on these two sheets of paper that my peers and their parents would read,” he said, “My teachers complimented me on it and said I had a natural gift for writing. So I thought I’d continue that.”

He headed to Michigan State University to study accounting, but switched his major to journalism because he wanted to write.

“It was a hobby that I wanted to develop into a career,” he said. “It’s a career you can learn a lot from because you get to talk to a lot of people, immerse yourself in the community, and learn how things and people operate.

“Our job is to understand and interpret what’s going on for our readers and explain how things work.”

The diversity at Michigan State also taught him to search for different viewpoints and ideas, since a different culture offers a different perspective on the world. He is also earning a minor in Spanish.

His focus in journalism is electronic or broadcast media. He enjoys expressing his visual creativity along with his words, and likes to show his audience what he’s talking about.

Ideally, he hopes to cover entertainment news, which he feels is a large influence on American society. His ideal job is to work for E! News, the entertainment cable television station.

“I’m drawn toward that because I think pop culture is very influential, and it has a lot of value in our everyday lives. Hollywood affects how people think and behave and what drives our interest. It has a pretty vital role. And reporting on it would be interesting to see how trends in human behavior are impacted by prominent figures, movies, and songs.”

So far, his favorite story on Mackinac Island was written after talking to the Detroit Institute of Arts while it was setting up art replicas around Mackinac Island. He found it interesting that Mackinac Island was chosen from one of 80 locations in Michigan, and most are downstate.

“I got to talk to the DIA, Grand Hotel employees, and visitors around the Island,” he said. “It was cool to see the impact that these paintings had on the Island.”

When he has free time, he practices his baton twirling hobby, which he started when he was seven years old.

“I was a drum major in high school, so I know how to throw a baton. Every afternoon I go out to Marquette Park and twirl one, two, and three batons. That’s how I’ve met the other Island employees, because they found it interesting, and I teach them how to do it.”

James Dau

Mr. Dau, 24, is pursuing his master’s degree in journalism at Michigan State University. He received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan Technological University in anthropology, with a concentration in archeology. He and his family, parents John and Dianne Dau and younger sister Julie, live in Clinton Township.

His passion for writing comes from his passion for reading. He described himself as a “voracious reader” when he was young. One day, when reading about J.R.R. Tolkien his junior year in high school, he learned the author began writing “The Lord Of the Rings” in the trenches of World War I.

“I thought, ‘If this guy could produce this monument of literature in the trenches of war, why can’t I do this now in peacetime,’” he said. “I’ve always liked stories to begin with, but after that, I felt like I had to try to write. I almost felt obligated to write.”

Since then, he’s been working on different short stories, both fiction and nonfiction. He decided to study journalism since the skills can be applied to many forms of writing, and has been published in the online journal, Popular Archeology, with six in-depth articles over the last year and a half.

“I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and journalism is a practical writing skill,” Mr. Dau said. “Most people don’t know what is happening in the world around them without the media. . . You wouldn’t know what is happening outside your own community. If I can make a meaningful contribution in that way, that’s a good thing.”

Journalism meets reader demand for staying informed.

In the future, Mr. Dau hopes he can write for National Geographic and share different cultures and experiences with his audiences.

“That’s the dream job right there. I’d essentially be getting paid to see the world and write about it,” he said. “I would help people learn about places that are far removed from their experiences, showing them the world beyond their front door. Sometimes, the only way some people can experience other worlds and cultures and times is through the words on a page. I want to at least help them experience that and understand.”

He is working on his favorite story so far, where he is talking to archeologists at Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City as they work on a dig site.

“The people working on that project, they’re literally writing history right now. They’re finding what past people have left behind in the ground. That’s the only way we can discover who they were, and how they lived. Otherwise, they’re completely lost to history.

“Our knowledge of our past is essentially the knowledge of how we became who we are today. It’s not just the political movers and shakers, it’s also the common people who lived and worked and died. They’re the ones that made up the fabric of their society, whether they were a fur trader or slave from the south or a factory worker. They’re all important. Not just the upper echelon, which is what we generally hear about.”

The allure of Mackinac Island’s history appealed to him, which is why he is happy to spend a summer writing about a place where so much history is documented.

When not working on his writing, whether for the Town Crier or his own fictional work, Mr. Dau enjoys exploring the state park.

“I do a lot of hiking and exploring the Island,” he said. “I spend a lot of time in the state park, going through the trails. I feel if you live somewhere for a time, you’re obligated to get to know the area while you’re there.”

He enjoys living on Mackinac Island.

“It’s a very different community than what I’m used to,” he said, “and I’ve been in large cities and in small towns. This is a unique place.”

Mr. Dau and Mr. Marlan join Matt Mikus, the full-time Town Crier and The St. Ignace News reporter who covers Mackinac Island.

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