While writing a Lantern exposé on the formation of the “Moonies” religious cult on Ohio State’s campus in the 1970s, journalism student John Oller had no idea just how much of a spring board his story would serve for future opportunities.
After receiving a tip that the movement had spread to Ohio State, Oller wrote an in-depth article revealing its presence on campus. His story soon gained notoriety as it explained students’ strange behavior to a number of concerned parents.
“That story really helped me in my career,” Oller said. “I had an early morning class the day of the story coming out. I was a little late to class. I remember walking in and the professor looking at me and asking, ‘Are you John Oller?’”
After the on-campus recognition Oller gained from his writing, he was nominated to work as a congressional intern in Washington, D.C., writing press releases and answering constituent letters for a Michigan congressman.
Oller later graduated with a law degree from Georgetown University and went on to work in the New York-based law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher as an associate in the litigation department. In 2011, he retired to focus on writing, which resulted in his authorship of four historical books.
It was because of his experiences at Ohio State that Oller established the John R. Oller The Lantern Special Editor or Reporter Fund in the School of Communication.
“I wanted to give back to the university that gave so much to me,” said Oller of his reasoning in creating the award.
The fund aims to support a student who can work on news pieces that are longer, more investigative or interpretive, than what a typical editor or reporter would take on.
Oller, who presents the award every year, hopes it can help students develop in their careers when they probably need it most.
“When you’re in college and trying to hold down studies and other things, it is a point in your life that you could use a little boost,” he said.
Oller believes that today’s School of Communication students display a unique commitment to their education.
“[I am] continually impressed by how much accomplished and broad-minded they are than students were in my day,” Oller said.
He encourages students to push on in their educational endeavors, while ensuring that they are also enjoying their time while in college.
“Be committed to what you are doing. Take it seriously. Have fun while doing it,” he said.
Learn more about John Oller.
Written by student Danny Ngundu