Design Director Chris Rukan

Chris Rukan, who attended Southern from 1992-98, is the opinions design director at the Washington Post. His time at Southern provided a foundation for his career in journalism, which included jobs as sports writer, editor and design director at other major metropolitan dailies, including the New Haven Register, the Connecticut Postand the Orlando Sentinel. 

How do you believe Southern prepared you for your career? 

There was a lot of preparation as a journalist. The great thing about it, with the SPJ chapter that was on campus and the Southern News, and everybody who worked in local media, you were always encouraged to get a lot of real world experience in it. 

As important as everything else in the classroom — and it really is, especially the foundations in terms of writing and editing and media law and ethics — there’s no replacement for getting real world  journalism experience in a news organization. 

What made you choose Southern? 

They gave me a scholarship to go there. I also knew they had a Society of Professional Journalists chapter, which I joined.

How would you describe your career path? 

I worked at the Southern News immediately after starting out, as the sports writer, sports editor, eventually becoming editor. While I was in school, worked on the sports desk at the New Haven Register. After, I took a job at the Connecticut Post. I started doing more editing and more design work, which is the track my career has taken. 

From there I’ve held jobs in sports departments in White Plains, New York at The Journal News, at the Orlando Sentinel, and as the sports design director at the Palm Beach Post before coming to the Washington Post in 2006. I joined the sports department here, worked in sports for about six years, before holding a few jobs throughout the newsroom. Designing A1, designing the metro section, designing style. I landed in the Outlook section in 2014. I joined Opinions in 2019.

What advice do you have for journalism students?

You really want to take in the whole experience, the classes are obviously important and you’ve got to do well in the classes. But you need to take advantage of the breath of experience that people like Cindy Simoneau and the department have and really try to work into journalism, 

There’s a lot to do in the classroom but you need to get in to the field to really put it into practice; there’s valuable experience to gain there.