CHADRON – When the Sept. 24, 2020, edition of “The Eagle” went to press, the tradition and practice of nurturing the talents and skills of aspiring journalists and writers at Chadron State College crossed a significant threshold.
That issue of CSC’s weekly student newspaper paper came precisely 100 years and two days after the first printed copy of “The Eagle” reached the hands of campus and community readers.
Included in the first issue Sept. 22, 1920, were stories on construction of the college gymnasium, paving on Main Street, football practice, a pep rally, student clubs, faculty activities, and an ice cream fundraiser that netted $23 for World War I orphans.
A century after its debut, the paper’s editorial content remains focused on subjects of concern to students and the campus community. The centennial edition, with a print run of 1,500 copies, includes stories on a Black Lives Matter march, the college Theatre production, a student beekeeper, and the food service/snack bar.
The issue also includes an eight-page special section paying tribute to the paper’s centennial, with decade-by-decade summaries of the paper’s content over the years.
“It’s amazing to think that 100 years later we may have different technology, but we’re still striving toward the same goal, serving our readers, as those who’ve come before us,” said co-editor Brandon Davenport, a senior from Chadron.
For many former CSC students who have been part of the editorial staff, the paper’s influence goes well beyond the stories it has reported.
“My time at ‘The Eagle’ sharpened my critical thinking skills, elevated my communication skills … demanded appropriate organizational, coordination and time management skills, and provided the opportunity to work with a diverse set of individuals and stakeholders,” said 2013 graduate T.J. Thomson, who now is a professor of visual communication at Queensland University of Technology in Australia. “All of those skills and experiences are ones I use in my day-to-day professional life.”
A graduate from nearly a decade before Thomson, agrees with his assessment.
“The experience we gained in working on a weekly, not just in the basics of the craft … but also in time management, cross training diplomacy, deadline sensitivity, and fact checking our own mother’s name, instilled in us a work regimen that made us doers, not just writers,” said 2004 graduate Mari Olson, the tourism marketing manager for Middleton, Wisconsin.
Working on “The Eagle” as a student provided a way to put the ideas and learning from classes into something tangible, said CSC’s Digital Graphic Designer Daniel Binkard, who was a writer and photographer for “The Eagle.”
“A student newspaper isn’t a classroom exercise, but something that can be seen by many, provide a voice for people, and even exert influence,” he said.
The critiques by fellow staff members and the paper’s adviser that follow publication of each issue are among the valuable experiences of working for “The Eagle,” said some former staffers.
“I didn’t really understand the purpose too well at the time, but the critiques were the best preparation for our careers,” said Josh Russo, a 2003 graduate who became a newspaper reporter before taking a position with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The hectic, late night work of meeting the newspaper’s print deadline created a teamwork among the staff.
“My favorite memories are the many nights on deadline we published a completed newspaper,” Russo said. “There were days we went to 2 a.m. to get it to press.”
Working for “The Eagle” also created a camaraderie that extended beyond graduation.
“I have great memories of us hanging out in the newsroom,” Olson said. “I’m still in touch with about half of the staff from back then.”
For Heather Johnson, the information department supervisor for Mid-Plains Community College, her favorite memories of working on “The Eagle” come from the morning after publication, when the chaos of the meeting print deadlines gave way to time for reflection.
“We would revel in the calm after the storm,” she said. “Reflecting on the experiences of the previous week and making plans for the future in an attempt to always make the next issue of ‘The Eagle’ a little bit better than the one before.”
Although working for “The Eagle” is demanding, it is rewarding, both personally and professionally, said Davenport, who will graduate in May.
Staff at “The Eagle” have to sacrifice free time and study time to perform their duties as student journalists, he said.
“There are some days where you wonder if it is worth it, but those who are dedicated are rewarded by a job well done and experience that will be invaluable to our professional lives,” he said.
Past issues of “The Eagle,” including the only surviving copy of the paper’s first edition, are currently on display in the second floor hallway of the Old Admin building.