As a writer and editor for The Commuter, NCC’s student newspaper, journalism major and Nazareth resident Chris Devlin brings conviction and caring about people to the newspaper’s pages.
His articles include police use of force, particularly regarding an incident in Allentown, an interview with NCC President Mark Erickson on overcoming systemic racism, and considerations for reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic. These articles and others can be accessed on ncccommuter.org.
Of an independent nature, Devlin dropped out of high school after the eleventh grade to pursue a career in music. At the same time, he moved to Long Island, where he learned carpentry from a cousin. After Hurricane Katrina, he went to New Orleans to help rebuild the city and to play music and study its culture. While there, he also trained in kung fu. Six years later, he moved back to Nazareth and opened a kung fu and tai chi school in Nazareth.
Although never having written for a newspaper before The Commuter, Devlin developed his talent during fifteen years by composing songs and rap lyrics for a band that traveled throughout North America and Europe. In addition to songwriting, he served as lead vocalist (a rapper), guitarist, manager, leader, and public relations coordinator for the band. His favorite band was the Wu-Tang Clan, but he did not want to copy their style; he wanted to be original. To become a creative and authentic lyricist, he read obscure literature, did crossword puzzles and studied a thesaurus.
A love of music and writing emerged early. Devlin and his friends started a band when he was twelve. Inspiration for writing began with his mother reading to him and teaching him to appreciate words and storytelling. His grandfather, a jazz ensemble leader in the Big Band era, further encouraged him by sharing his love of reading and writing.
“I cherish everything I learned from him and carry it in my heart,” Chris says. Letters he wrote to and received from his grandfather while living in New Orleans played a significant role in his writing. He also had a podcast, interviewing musicians.
Devlin’s approach to his craft is thoughtful. Writing is a puzzle, he says, the pieces of which are the words you assemble to produce a mental image. Hip-hop is amorphous and boundless, he explains, while news writing is more of a path.
Devlin has found encouragement from many sources. Devlin’s family has been unwavering in their support; his mother, an art teacher at Bethlehem Catholic High School, invited him to be imaginative and provided him with the tools to be expressive. His fiancée, Claudia, a civil engineer, has inspired him with her strength and provided him with love and courage. High school teachers, even those with whom he clashed, praised his writing and still use his work as examples in their classes.
A tragedy propelled Devlin to take a new direction: On June 22, 2019, Claudia’s sister Paula was murdered in Colombia by her boyfriend. The killer fled after being released on his own recognizance and has yet to be captured. “Our world was shattered,” Devlin says. “Inspired by Paula’s altruism and her love of knowledge and education, I got my G.E.D. at NCC. I enjoyed the campus atmosphere so much that immediately after taking the test, I went to the admissions office and enrolled.
“As a young man, I flouted formal education, but understood the power of knowledge and sought to educate myself alternatively,” Devlin says. On The Commuter staff, Devlin acquired technical skills that could not have been matched otherwise. Since becoming editor, his writing acumen has accelerated. “Under Professor Rob Hays’ guidance, I have honed my journalistic style.” Among the skills he has honed is greater speed.
Although he once preferred writing long, investigative pieces, Devlin found it also rewarding to write a breaking news story about the incident in Allentown. “From Professor Chiles, in my Journalism and Society class, I learned that conscience, not personal opinion, should inform a journalist’s work. That was what I experienced while getting the word out about what happened, and I felt honored to serve the public in the quest for truth and justice.” A martial artist for twelve years, Devlin put his skills to use bounding past crowds and scaling walls when covering protests.
Devlin has found his journalistic niche. “I want to blow the lid off scandals, expose corruption and amplify the voices of the unheard, which are some of the general goals of journalism and a perfect area for me.”
Professor Rob Hays agrees. “Chris is one of those students a professor prays for — conscientious, proactive, passionate about learning and sometimes one step ahead, which keeps me on my toes. He’s one of those people who make everyone around him better.
“To say Chris is a quick study is an understatement. He is one of the most prepared students I have ever had the pleasure of having in the classroom or on The Commuter. In 10 or 20 years, Chris will be among the distinguished alums whom the college singles out in its marketing.”
The Commuter won 11 awards this past spring semester, including five first places, in the two-year college division of the 2021 Student Keystone Media Awards Contest sponsored by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association. This was the biggest awards haul in the history of NCC’s student news organization.
Editor-in-Chief Chris Devlin was personally responsible for 10 of the awards, including first place in Ongoing News Coverage, General News, Podcast, Personality Profile, and Cartoon/Graphic Illustration. Devlin took second in Diversity, Photo Story, and Public Service/ Enterprise Package.
Devlin plans to a transfer to a four-year school to complete his bachelor’s degree.
He is grateful to be part of the NCC experience. “It’s an honor to serve NCC. I take pride in my responsibility to this community. I am humbled that Professor Hays appointed me to the position of editor. He has been a mentor to me, and I feel fortunate to receive his guidance. I’m also thankful to Eva Labram, former editor, and Heather Gil, former web editor, who have been incredibly helpful in showing me the ropes and setting an example for passing the torch when the time comes.”