October 18, 2016

Daily Egyptian to celebrate 100th anniversary

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Daily Egyptian, Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s student-produced newspaper, celebrates its 100th anniversary this week with events that include a panel discussion and release of a book recounting the publication’s history.

The celebration for DE alumni is Friday and Saturday, Oct. 21-22, and includes a tour of the paper’s converged newsroom with the River Region Evening Edition. Bill Recktenwald, senior lecturer and journalist-in-residence, will serve as host.

Later, there will be a panel discussion featuring noted Daily Egyptian alumni in Morris Library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium. Joe Sobczyk, a 1980 graduate who is White House editor for Bloomberg, will discuss his career and the presidential race, followed by the panel discussion on the future of journalism.  Panelists are Jackie Koszczuk, who was editor of the Almanac of American Politics at National Journal from 2008 to 2014; Monique Garcia, state government reporter for the Chicago Tribune; and Dan Haar, editor of the Chicago Tribune’s breaking news desk.

“The Daily Egyptian: The First Century,’’ will be released and copies will be available to purchase. The book will sell for $20 and be available that evening, or through the School of Journalism office (Room 1202) in the Communications Building. Proceeds will go to the School of Journalism.

The inaugural Daily Egyptian newspaper was published Oct. 28, 1916.  The newspaper is now printed once a week but operates daily online at http://dailyegyptian.com/.

The 80-page book includes 36 photographs, copies of 53 front pages, and two dozen stories that provide history and perspective on the Daily Egyptian’s coverage, including the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and President Obama’s 2008 election night rally in Chicago. Research on the book started in 2012 with students in a special projects class researching Daily Egyptian archives, Recktenwald said.

More than 230 former newspaper alumni and faculty have registered for events that include a reception and meal on Friday night, and tailgate celebration prior to Saturday’s Saluki Homecoming football game against Illinois State.

Eric Fidler, the newspaper’s faculty managing editor, recalled the industry changes through the years -- from typing on paper to now utilizing web design and the internet. Reaching the century mark would not be possible “without the dedication of the many students who have worked here, and this party is a celebration of them as much as anything else,” he said. 

While the newspaper has gone from printing five days a week to just once a week, the staff works as hard as ever updating and posting stories online, Fidler said. 

“In fact, we probably ask more of them now than we did when the Web was an afterthought,” he said. “Even though many people remain nostalgic for print, our students are entering a field where print hardly matters. So we have to roll with the changes, and make sure our students are ready to go to work when they leave here.” 

The celebration features student editors who go back 66 years. Bill Hollada, a Benton native who was the student editor in 1950-51, is among those who will return. Hollada now lives in Mattoon. 

Recktenwald hopes the book is a reminder of the newspaper’s important work through the years. While not the first student-published newspaper, the publication “has had an impact not only on campus but in the entire community,” he said. 

“There are a lot of newspapers around the Midwest and other places that are run by people who got their initial training at the Daily Egyptian,” Recktenwald said. “We are excited that we are now in a converged newsroom like major newspapers across the country that have television cameras available for that mixture of TV news and newspapers.” 

Kathy Best, whose staff at the Seattle Times earned a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting, was a reporter and news editor at the DE from 1977 to 1979. Although her family background was already in the newspaper business in Sullivan, Best said that walking into the newsroom the first time “was intimidating, but it was love at first sight.” 

“After just a few weeks of writing for the paper, I knew I had found my future,” Best, now editor of the Missoulian newspaper in Missoula, Mont., said. “The passion and excitement, the camaraderie and friendships stay with me today. 

“Working for the DE allowed me to apply the concepts I was learning in journalism classes to the real world in real time,” Best recalled. The journalism professors she had in Carbondale, including Harry Stonecipher and Bill Harmon, “laid a solid foundation that emphasized both the good that journalism can do in society, but also the harm it can cause if not done with care and thought and compassion.”

Best said that like most journalism students, she made “some stupid mistakes.”

“The worst was letting a headline through when I was working as news editor that referred to a judge by his first name,” Best said. “I can still hear Bill Harmon’s voice in my head the next day asking if I was a particular friend of the judge. When I said no, he wanted to know why … I was calling him by his first name in a headline. I never made that mistake again. And I’ve made the need for accuracy a cornerstone of my career as both a reporter and as an editor.”