University News

Jack Be Nimble
Bidding a fond farewell to our rockstar student writer, Jackson Brook '19.

By Pippa Jack / May/June 2019
May 13th, 2019

Deputy Editor Louise Sloan ’88 went right to the source looking for interns three years ago: Brown’s journalism professors. Here’s what she got from Tracy Breton, a Pulitzer Prize–winner in the English department: “Jackson Brook is a sophomore but one of the most talented journalists I’ve ever taught.” 

When Louise met Jack, “he was definitely not the self-important person I might have expected from the recommendation,” she recalls. “He was open and unpretentious and looked young—like Ron Howard somewhere between Opie and Richie Cunningham. And he brought great ideas to the table.” 

Here’s how one went down:

“Hey guys,” Jack wrote in November 2017, “Have you heard of Max Deutsch? He created the blog “Month to Mastery” in which he masters a difficult skill in a month. Examples: build a self-driving car (check), develop perfect pitch (check), and beat world chess champion Magnus Carlsen (the only one he failed). I’ll be in SF over break and could interview him.”

Louise thought there was a feature in it—although “an intern had never written a feature, to my knowledge.” 

The first draft didn’t work—Jack had written it as a straight news story. Louise gave him some pointers and asked him to take another crack at it. This, dear readers, is the point at which most editor/intern interactions decay into forsaken deadlines and unanswered emails. But Jack’s second draft, “I Have A System For That,” is online. It needed almost no editing. It opens: 

“Max Deutsch ’11 believed he could land a backflip. But his feet didn’t...Standing on the springy blue floor of San Francisco’s AcroSports gym as preschoolers practiced somersaults, Deutsch stared hard at the wall. Over the past two weeks he’d completed 45 backflips from within the safety of a special harness, to help make sure, as he put it, “I’m not going to die.” He knew he had the physical ability, but it wasn’t until he stepped out of the harness that he realized how comforting it had been. He’d put in too much work to back out now....”

Jack’s more recent writings include two of my favorite features: an evocative profile of filmmaker and professor RaMell Ross, and our Jan/Feb cover story on Bathsheba Demuth ’06, ’07 AM, and her research on Arctic environmental change. He’s the subject of yet another BAM story, about a team of student journalists who published an investigative series on elder abuse in the Providence Journal. Jack’s writing transcends genres; it’s beautiful, emotionally engaging, intellectually hefty. It’s what all professional magazine writers aspire to. 

We’ve been dreading the day he graduates. 

Before he walks through the Van Wickle Gates, Jack will wrap up a few more stories we’ll share with you in coming issues. This summer he’ll focus on criminal justice reporting with the Marshall Project in NYC, a lovely segue from his work tutoring state prisoners through the Petey Greene Project. Then he’ll head to the Miami Herald for an internship. I’m sure it won’t be long before they know what they’ve got. Jack, we’ll be reading. Be ever true. 

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Related Issue
May/June 2019