CHADRON – In the recent celebration of the 100th anniversary of “The Eagle,” Chadron State College’s student newspaper, attention focused largely on the nature of stories that the paper’s student journalists covered over the years.
Less noticed as “The Eagle” marked the centennial milestone was the role that three CSC faculty advisers have played in creating the publication for two-thirds of the paper’s lifetime.
In total the three instructors, Bernard Donohue, LaVida Dickinson, and current adviser Mike Kennedy, have played a key role with “The Eagle” for 67 of its 100 years in print.
Donohue, a professor of English who taught children’s literature and advanced grammar, was adviser from 1952 to 1983.
Kathy Dixon succeeded Donohue as Eagle adviser for one year before Dickinson, a veteran journalist from South Dakota, took over the job. Dickinson’s tenure with the Eagle lasted until she retired in 2008.
Kennedy, who came to CSC with a background as a reporter, photographer, and journalism instructor, became the paper’s adviser in the fall of 2008 and continues in the post today.
While student editors direct the paper’s editorial decisions, faculty advisers play a role in the success of the enterprise, as well as nurturing the skills of fledgling journalists.
Donohue’s daughter, Cathy, recalls visiting “The Eagle” office as a child, and being fascinated by the wire baskets that cradled stories waiting to be proofread before they were sent for printing.
“There was something almost sacred about those baskets, like ‘This is where it starts,’” she said.
Dickinson’s tenure at “The Eagle” was marked by changes in technology, including the replacement of manual typewriters with electric models, the first use of computers, the change from pasting up pages to on-screen layout, and shifting from film-based to digital cameras. She also led the paper’s change from twice a month to weekly publication and publishing online.
Dickinson had a strong influence on many of the student journalists she mentored, with several former staffers recalling in particular the critiques conducted after each issue was published.
“She taught us to be hard-working, detail oriented, and with the use of a red-pen that made our papers bleed, to have a firm grip of Associated Press style,” said 2005 graduate Heather Johnson.
Dickinson’s emphasis on following the basics of good journalism helped many reporters build careers in the profession and related fields.
“Our success in job placement was due to the reputation of our adviser,” said 2004 graduate Mari Olson.
Working with “The Eagle” also created lasting friendships for Dickinson, who now lives in Minnesota and says she is in contact with more than 40 of her former students.
“The memories I’m most grateful for are the friendships I gained with intelligent, caring, fun, students,” she said.
Kennedy has also seen big changes. In his first years, the paper moved its offices, chose a new company to produce the print edition, reduced the paper’s print run, and cut the number of mailed copies.
While online stories appeared in 2002, under Kennedy the paper has revamped and expanded its web coverage. In 2018, “The Eagle” was one of the first student papers in the region to use a drone for video coverage of a story and this year the paper added an Ag and Rangeland section.
The pandemic forced “The Eagle” to suspend its print edition at the end of the spring 2020 semester, but the paper’s staff continued to post stories on the website through the end of the school year, Kennedy said. The paper resumed its regular Thursday print edition this fall.
Under Kennedy’s tutelage, “The Eagle” has amassed a number of awards, including nine consecutive Best Overall Newspaper awards in the annual competition conducted by the Northern Plains Collegiate Media Association.
The tradition of nurturing careers and lasting friendships seems set to continue as the paper enters its second century.
“In addition to the practical skills and experiences that complemented my college studies and readied me for the real world, I also met some of my lifelong friends through my time at ‘The Eagle,’” said 2013 graduate T.J. Thomson.