Thesis Christ: Declassifying the Relationship between the CIA and American Media

This week the Quest had the honor of interviewing a former editor, History major Katherine Draves (she/her). Her thesis is an exploration of the relationship between the CIA and the American press machine in the late 1960s and 1970s. 

Her research focuses on the Church committee, an investigation that was meant to look into wrongdoings in the intelligence community. The official reason behind the Church committee’s investigation was a New York Times article accusing the CIA of spying on American citizens. Draves attempts to look deeper into this connection between the media and the government.

Draves’ research is using both primary and secondary sources to argue that the relationship between the CIA and the press was reflective of the relationship between the US government and the general public, and is an example of how the public’s attitude towards the government shifted from more placid and accepting in the 1950s to combative in the 1960s and 1970s. 

As a former editor of the Quest, Draves knew that she wanted her thesis to be a cross section of both her journalistic and historical interests. The class “The Tragedies of American Diplomacy: U.S. Foreign Policy since 1893” with Professor Joshua Howe, helped to narrow her interests to the Cold War era and the CIA. 

Draves’ journey to a history major was a winding one. Entering Reed as a theater major, she quickly switched to political science. While she did enjoy it, Draves found that her interests were much more rooted in finding out the context and reasoning behind political events, rather than the policy itself. Draves took a history class with Professor Jacqueline K. Dirks, and was hooked. 

Beginning her thesis, Draves knew she was interested in the intersection of journalism and the US government. Her thesis advisor, Professor Joshua Howe, gave her a “giant book on the history of the CIA,” and asked her to find something that interested her. 

Draves was brutally honest about the realities of life as a thesising senior at Reed. She made a point to express how emotional and difficult the process can be. Draves spent fall semester with her nose deep in a book, asking questions and sorting through huge amounts of information and ideas. She affirmed that the History Department’s JSEM does prepare someone for a thesis, but there is no understanding just how overwhelming a task it is until you are “deep in the weeds.” But after many late nights studying and thousands of tears, Draves is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

While her only focus in the immediate future is getting her thesis draft done, Draves does have some longer term goals for post-Reed life. After some well deserved European travel this summer (barring covid concerns), she is planning to begin applying for jobs in fields that interest her. Graduate school is a possibility in the very distant future, but right now Draves is ready to get out of academic-dodge.  

Now nearing the end of her time at Reed, Draves took some time to reflect on how mental health and substance abuse colored her time at the college. 

“Everything about Reed is telling you that you’re not reading enough, working hard enough, smart enough, stressed enough. College should not be this hard.” Draves shed light on a phenomenon that is commonly talked about in private, but is rarely put into words in a public forum. She shared how tumultuous her mental health journey has been, and how it was worsened by Reed workaholic culture. Feelings of overwhelming stress and anxiety are troublingly common on Reed’s campus, but so is a culture of competitive stress: not only must students be working their hardest, they must be the most stressed about it. An already prevalent issue was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing a spike in depression and anxiety that was felt by a huge portion of students. 

“This [school] is not the most important thing in life, and it never will be.” Cultures that encourage stress inevitably foster problems that are caused from an attempt to mediate stress. Draves shared her struggles with marijuana dependency, and her experience in a wilderness therapy program to help her with her sobriety. Draves is now seven months sober and doing very well. She hopes that more awareness around substance abuse will encourage students to reprioritize.

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