Graduating senior Xander Landen knew he wanted to pursue journalist at age 17 when, as a writer for his hometown newspaper in Weston, Mass., he was given the agency to cover the events that captivated him.
“That kind of got me going; it just felt right,” he said. “I loved journalism because it’s something that society needs, and it’s something that involves a lot of the skills that I like to exercise myself — I love talking to people and interviewing people.”
At Tufts, Landen has continued on his journalistic path with his work with the Tufts Observer and as co-founder of the Tufts Podcast Network in 2013 with graduating senior Cooper McKim.
Through the Tufts Podcast Network, Landen spends time educating his peers on the basics of producing audio, reporting, interviewing and structuring stories.
“A lot of students had no experience in journalism … and now some of them are working in radio,” he said. “We’ve inspired a lot of students and shared our passion for this kind of work.”
The subjects of Landen’s stories range widely, including in his work on the Observer, where he has previously been the editor of the poetry and prose, arts and culture and news sections.
As the Observer’s current news editor, he said he is particularly proud of editing a story on environmental racism in Medford and Somerville, and writing one on a rehabilitative program for heroin addicts in Gloucester, Mass. His piece “Boxed In” on the dangers of solitary confinement, was a finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists’ regional Mark of Excellence Award.
One particular class at Tufts that influenced Landen was the Experimental College course he took in his sophomore spring called “800 Words,” taught by James Geary, former Europe editor of TIME Magazine and deputy curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism.
“It was just so good to have a professional come in and really just change the way I think about writing and the structure,” Landen said. “I learned how to make a piece flow better than I ever had before in writing.”
Landen has also to pursued journalism beyond the Hill.
During the winter of his first year in college, Landen interned at local NPR member public radio station, WSHU, and since then, he has continued to delve deeper into the field, exploring both print and radio media.
“I was reporting and writing and voicing my own radio stories about politics, transportation, education, all these different issues,” Landen said. “I love that as a journalist, you have to be able to understand what’s going on in the world and explain it to people. You have to understand complicated subjects [and] break it down for your listeners or your readers.”
This past summer, Landen interned at WNYC, public radio station and NPR affiliate of New York City, and joined a team of reporters investigating the lack of transparency surrounding police misconduct records. He explained that this process entailed contacting over 100 sources and combing through public record laws in all 50 states.
“[What] I found with the other reporters is that when these records are not accessible to the public, it has repercussions in the sense that there isn’t the same amount of police accountability that you have in states where there is transparency,” he said.
The story received a variety of accolades, including the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service and the DuPont Columbia Award, and was a finalist for the Deadline Club Award.
As for deciding between a future in either print or radio, he said he is conflicted about which medium he would like to pursue in his career.
“I think radio is a better medium for storytelling than print is, but I think that print is a better medium for really diving into a complex story,” Landen said.
Landen said that after graduation, he will miss the amalgamation of passion and unique interests that Tufts students have.
“I hope that I’ll continue to find that diversity in interests wherever I go, and I think that I might be able to with journalism because you’re talking to new people every day,” Landen said.