Not your average story about a ‘dead old white dude’


On May 12, 2009, Lin-Manuel Miranda was invited by President Barack Obama to perform at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word. At the time, Miranda was most well-known for his Broadway show “In the Heights” and many expected him to perform something from it. Instead, Miranda took everyone in the room by surprise.

“I’m actually working on a hip-hop album. A concept album about the life of someone I think embodies hip-hop. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton,” Miranda said as he introduced himself to the audience.

The audience proceeded to laugh and Miranda acknowledged the laughter but ensured that he was serious. Then he began to sing a song that would eventually go on to be part of a musical that would win 11 Tony Awards, a Grammy Award, and a Pulitzer Prize.

As Miranda told the audience at the White House his plan–a concept album of Alexander Hamilton, someone who he thought embodied hip-hop–he said it without a hint of amusement, total seriousness. This is what hooked me.

How can Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father of the United States and the founder of the United States Treasury, embody hip-hop? These two concepts seem like they should be opposites of each other.

When Miranda announced his latest venture at the White House, he seemed prepared for this response from the guests in attendance, the same response I had when I first heard about the concept of “Hamilton.” Combining hip-hop, rap, theater and U.S. history is something that had never been done before, something no one had probably even thought of. Something of pure genius.

As Miranda sings, you can clearly see his passion for creating this work of history in musical form. Miranda is passionate, dynamic and knowledgeable. As he sings, he details Hamilton’s history. Not only does he create catchy verses, but he informs the public of one of our Founding Fathers’ past. Not an easy feat.

I would not consider myself a history buff by any means, but this simple video pushed me to want to know more about Hamilton-and not in the traditional way. Miranda takes a piece of history, something normally taught in a high school classroom to students wishing they could be anywhere else but there learning about a dead old white dude, and makes them want to know more. He makes his audience snap along, pushing them to get involved and become invested in his beautifully created piece of art.

Hip-hop and rap, staples of popular culture today, are what I believe allows Miranda’s idea to work. Without this musical style, “Hamilton” would have been just another dull installment of history. Instead, Miranda challenges his audience to invest in history and take a chance on his unique take of the life of Alexander Hamilton.

ESPN College Gameday Tour


As a j-schooler, I’ve learned how important it is to check my emails almost every time that I look at my phone. You never know when there might be breaking news or emails that need an immediate response. This was one of those times. UW-Madison journalism students were offered the opportunity to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the ESPN College Gameday set on Friday at three different times. There were a limited number of spots available for the tours, about 15 students per group, and the first students to respond were allowed to go.


Luckily, I was able to sign up for one of the times and was able to quickly make my way to Bascom Hill after work on Friday.



2011 was the last time that ESPN Gameday came to Madison. They had scouted the school the week before they came, and decided that Bascom Hill was the place that best represented our campus and would provide them with the most space for the set. Set producers and scouts had to determine how they would get all the trucks there, it is a very large hill after all, but they were able to park all eight of their traveling trucks on Observatory Drive at the top of Bascom. The same thing occurred this year when ESPN decided that College Gameday was heading back to UW-Madison for the Wisconsin Badgers versus the Ohio State Buckeyes game on Saturday.

Senior Operations Producer Judi Weiss lead our group on the tour. As a live show was about to begin, we first made our way to the main set where the broadcast desk set-up in front of Abe and Bascom Hall to take photos. We also got to look at the cameras and monitors set up around the desk.


After each group had a chance to take a few pictures, we were hurried off the set and up Bascom Hill to Observatory Drive where the main production trailer was. While the set itself is transported in different trucks each week when there is a different destination, the main production trailer and the tour bus travels to every location with the 65 cast and crew members.


We then went into the main production trailer to look a the set-up and even watch as a bit of the live show was produced. During a live Saturday morning show, 25 crew members made up of producers, the director, analysts, and other personnel, are squeezed into single trailer. It’s incredible. We were allowed to watch for a few minutes, then were hustled out as the next tour was about to start.

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It was a fantastic experience to see how a show as big as ESPN’s College Gameday is scouted, transported, set-up, produced, and torn down all in the matter of a week during EVERY SINGLE WEEK OF THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON. It’s an insane amount of work, but after touring the set, it is clear that each cast and crew member loves what they do and wouldn’t change it for the world.  


Jonah Beleckis’ letter to the editor


I stumbled upon Jonah Beleckis’ column “Letter to the editor: UW-Madison’s alcohol culture alienates non-drinkers” last spring while scheduling my posts for the Daily Cardinal’s Twitter account. As a member of the social media team, I would often times simply skim through the articles and quickly move on to create my caption. This article stopped me in my tracks.

“Hello, my name is Jonah.”

Beleckis hooked me from his opening line, pushing me to read further as if the title of the column itself had not already peaked my interest.

As a college student who has never had a sip of alcohol in my life, it is often difficult for me to find voices on campus that see things from the same lense as I do. Because of this, Beleckis’ column really connected with me. His experience as a student at UW-Madison who is a non-drinker is different from my own of course, but I relate to many of the situations that he discusses.

Beleckis recalls times where professors would make jokes about weekend antics, insinuating alcohol consumption, or times where he found himself standing in a packed Camp Randall crowd listening to the chants of “We! Want! More! Beer!” coming from the students around him. These are all common occurrences that most students on campus have experienced and can relate to. Few can attest to being uncomfortable with the casualness in which behavior involving alcohol is tossed around on the UW-Campus. Like Jonah, I know this feeling and relate.

Jonah really made me question UW-Madison’s drinking culture when he told the story of the first party he attended freshman year. He went to a house party where a cup of wop or beer or “whatever” was $5, the usual entrance fee on campus.

“My friend and I weren’t drinking, and after we informed the makeshift bouncer, he scoffed as if his bravado were up to peer review and asked me, ‘Why would you come to a house party and not drink?’ I bit my tongue and paid for an empty cup. We all make sacrifices to be accepted, right?”

Jonah’s final line from this paragraph, “We all make sacrifices to be accepted, right?” really stuck with me. No matter if you are a non-drinker or not, there are times in every person’s life where decisions are made in order to be accepted or fit the norm. He challenges the reader here to relate to his piece, whether they consume alcohol or not, and continue to read on.

To test the reader’s views on UW-Madison’s drinking culture even more, Beleckis provides statistics on binge-drinking specific to UW-Madison from Reonda Washington, the University Health Services Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Coordinator. One of the most alarming facts from Washington that Beleckis chooses to highlight, is that fifty percent of UW-Madison’s undergrads are considered “high-risk drinkers.”

This sounds fine, until Beleckis informs the reader that other UW-System schools reported 35 percent and that the national average was 36 percent. That puts in perspective how extreme UW-Madison’s drinking culture is compared to other universities.

I wish that he had provided more statistics on students that drink on campus versus those who do not. At the same time, I understand that there is most likely a lack of data on this subject but it would have been interesting to see more data on students that choose not to drink in his article.

Beleckis leaves a lasting impression when he encourages his readers to respect each other’s limits and differences.

“I’ve said no to a drink many more times than I’ve Jumped Around. I believe there are others on this campus who choose to say no, who might even have a harder time saying no.”
Through this column, Beleckis gives a voice to others on campus that are in the same or a similar situation as he is. He reminds those who struggle, or who feel isolated, that they are not alone on campus. Because of this, he makes it a personal and difficult article for one to forget.

Jonah Beleckis’ original article can be found here: 

This blog post was original published on as an assignment for Journalism 202 at UW-Madison.