‘Writing is life:’ Millikin alum Chris Linden ’08 learned the fundamentals of his career writing for the Decaturian

Linden is the Executive Editor of Northwest Quarterly and Smart Living magazines.

DECATUR, Ill. – No matter what you may have heard, Millikin University alum Chris Linden will tell you that print media is not dead. 

Chris, a graduate of the Class of 2008, is the Executive Editor of Northwest Quarterly and Smart Living magazines, which publish positive, uplifting, and informative articles about living in the region around Northern Illinois, Southern Wisconsin, Northwest Chicagoland, and Northeast Indiana.

Chris Linden
Millikin alum Chris Linden '08 speaks about his time at the Decaturian.

"When it comes to magazines specifically, people love them. Research shows that 80% of all Americans have read a magazine in the past six months. That's a statistic that holds across all demographics in all age groups, from older adults to college students,” Chris said. “(Compared to an ugly news web page), magazines slow you down. They are built for engagement in a way that a website never can. I believe magazines do have a strong future ahead of them.”

Northwest Quarterly and Smart Living are successful publications in a market where many magazines have struggled to find an audience. 

Northwest Quarterly Magazine cover

“Essentially, we are cheerleaders for the region. We love to show a slice of life that highlights the best things that you can enjoy about living in Northern Illinois, Southern Wisconsin, Northwest Chicagoland, and Northeast Indiana. It's a pretty big territory, but we get to have a lot of fun,” Chris said. “I get to meet interesting people every day. I get to go on interesting assignments and research incredibly fascinating topics each day.”

Chris graduated with a Political Science degree from Millikin and earned a Master's in Journalism from Northwestern University, where he could continue that passion for writing that he has had from a young age. 

“I've always been experimenting, and I've always been playing with stories. At age four, I was the kid who was telling stories into his Fisher Price tape recorder, and by age 10, I was writing my own Goosebumps spinoffs, so I think it was inevitable I would become a writer,” he said. “Even though I had spent a lot of time playing and enjoying words and experimenting, nothing quite compared to the experience I got once I stepped on campus here. Millikin was four years of the most intensive laboratory that you can imagine. Every new newspaper and project you take on is an opportunity to learn and grow, to take your wordplay to new levels.”

Chris Linden

Chris also honed his writing skills as the Executive Director of the Decaturian, Millikin’s student-run newspaper. He returned to campus during the spring semester, sharing his experience in a presentation titled “You Can Leave the Dec, but the Dec Can't Leave You: Lessons I Learned at Millikin & Beyond."

“For me, writing is life. It's not just a 9-to-5 thing you put away at the end of the day. Writing is my life. I have notebooks everywhere you go, in my backpacks, nightstands, everywhere,” Chris said. “I love the thrill of playing with words, that hunt of exploring new things, expanding my abilities, and learning at every turn, just like I did when I was here at the Dec.”

Linden’s ties to Millikin are deep as his grandfather Charles Linden graduated in the Class of 1949, and his parents -- Helen Bakakos Linden ’81 and Tom Linden ’81 -- met while attending Millikin. In total, Chris is one of 12 family members who are Big Blue graduates including cousins Jenny Bakakos ’06 and Nick Bakakos ’07 and aunts and uncles Sherri ’81 and Basil Bakakos '77, Ernie Bakakos ’79, Tammy Bakakos Burbidge ’84, and Drew Burbidge ’84.

Chris Linden family
Chris with his my wife Rachel and children Simon and Sarah.

“My mom was the third of four kids who all attended Millikin. When I was looking at colleges, it was on my radar. It really stood out to me, and it's a great school. It's a hands-on opportunity, and as a James Millikin Scholar, that was a huge attraction for me. That covers a significant chunk of your tuition, and in turn, you get to go on this intensive research project and have fun with it for several years. It was a great opportunity to be here, and I'm glad I did.”

On one particular assignment for the Decaturian, Chris reported on a visit to campus by then-U.S. Representative to Illinois’s 17 District Phillip Hare. He followed along with the group as they walked around campus with then-Millikin President Douglas Zemke. Near the current location of the University Commons, the party met a group of Fine Arts students, and Chris snapped a photo of the interaction. That photo went on to win an award from the Illinois College Press Association (ICPA), and the experience is a perfect example of Chris’ love of storytelling and not being afraid to take a chance on an unexpected opportunity.

Chris Linden campus photo
Chris Linden's photograph of former U.S. Representative Phillip Hare meeting some Millikin Fine Arts students. 

“As we were taking the tour, I started wondering, where is my story? What's my photo op? What are readers going to care about the most from this? As it turns out, I got my answer; I just found it in an unexpected place,” Chris said. “We were approached by a roving troop of actors, which at Millikin is nothing unusual. What I hadn't expected was that the actors would be dressed as mimes. They were covered in makeup and elaborate costumes, and Congressman Hare just played right along, and it ended up becoming a terrific photo. My time at Millikin was a lot like that photo. I took chances, built my skills, followed my passions, experimented, and learned along the way, and of course, I had a lot of fun doing it.”