Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University
Thesis Title: River of Living Water: The Croton System and the Transformation of Westchester, 1841-1896
What Now: Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University
What Next: Academia or journalism
Follow Me: @msilber6 (Twitter)
When friends ask what I'll do after I return from England, I sometimes joke that I'm debating whether to spend my life with the living or the dead. But for me, journalism and history have always felt like two sides of the same coin: be it a Morgan silver dollar or a bitcoin.
Both disciplines ask their practitioners to search scrupulously for evidence — whether that entails tracking down a source’s unlisted phone number or poring through pages of indecipherable handwritten notes. Both disciplines ask their practitioners to challenge the conventional wisdom and question authority — whether that means holding a political leader accountable or intervening in a scholarly debate. And both disciplines ask their practitioners to tell stories — of the past and the present, of people known and unknown.
As an undergraduate, I found that the work I did as a History & Literature concentrator and the work I did as a journalist fed each other. Combing through W.E.B. Du Bois’s extensive digital archives for my junior paper turned out to be useful practice for combing through years of Pennsylvania Board of Medicine records as an investigative intern for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And reporting in the rural counties of Southwestern Pennsylvania made me attune to the ways in which urban-centric narratives, both the ones in our newspapers and the ones in our history books, often neglect important perspectives — an insight that informed my senior thesis.
This past summer, I interned for The Washington Post, and I’ll continue to freelance for that paper while studying British and European history at Oxford. For now, at least, I’ll keep one foot in the realm of the living and one foot in the realm of the dead. I hope I can stay in this purgatory forever.