Celebrating 100 Years of Student Journalism

Jim AmidonThe Bachelor’s 100-year history as the students’ “voice of Wabash College” will be celebrated formally this week and throughout the fall semester. The 100-year anniversary this Wednesday comes at a fitting time after student writers and photographers cleaned up with 22 awards at the Indiana Collegiate Press Association’s annual meeting two weekends ago.

And interestingly, the ICPA’s statewide conference marked the 50-year anniversary of that consortium.

While The Bachelor’s history on campus is long and consistent, the paper’s involvement with the ICPA has been uneven, at best. During my 25 years at Wabash, I’ve seen student journalists deeply involved in the ICPA and I’ve seen long stretches when students never bothered to join the association, much less submit materials for competition.

When I was a student at Wabash, The Bachelor was a proud member of the ICPA and routinely competed against much larger student newspapers, most of which were a structured part of journalism programs or journalism schools.

Through the 90s, our involvement in the ICPA fizzled, which was really a shame because we had some terrific writers, editors, cartoonists, and photographers who passed through Wabash. Chris Cotterill ’99 stands out in particular after serving as editor-in-chief for three full years and managing one of the deepest and most talented Bachelor staffs I can recall. That’s Chris with Jacob Pactor in the photo on the right.

After a 10-year hiatus, I think it was Adam Christensen who reinstated The Bachelor as a full member of the ICPA. Christensen, who served as editor-in-chief for a year, would later be named the Indiana Collegiate Journalist of the Year — the only time a Wabash man has ever earned the honor. To put that in perspective, Christensen beat out editors from the Indiana Daily Student, as well as nominees from respected journalism and communications programs at Ball State, Purdue, and Notre Dame. Adam is pictured below.

For several years — including Jacob Pactor’s three-year run as editor — Wabash’s volunteer student journalists cleaned up at the ICPA’s annual awards celebration. Wabash students won awards for best news stories, best features, best special editions, best news photos, and best sports photos.

Those were proud days for Steve Charles and me, who have served as advisors to the Board of Publications for a little more than 10 years. We’ve always said that studying the liberal arts is the best preparation for journalists; our liberally educated Wabash students proved our point.

(Which is not to mention how proud we are of our alumni like CBS News’ Dean Reynolds ’70, Time magazine’s Tim Padgett ’84, Associated Press reporter Pete Prengaman ’98, and more recently, Ryan Smith ’03, who is an associate producer for CBS’ 48 Hours Mystery program.)

Now that Howard Hewitt, a 22-year veteran journalist, has joined the public affairs staff and has been more active in advising The Bachelor, we’re thrilled with the results — our students are benefiting from working with a pro. After breaking away from the ICPA for three years, Wabash is an active, competing member once again. Under the leadership of outgoing editor-in-chief Patrick Smith, Wabash journalists won 22 ICPA awards at the annual meeting of college journalists, including seven first place certificates.

But Wabash men don’t participate in student journalism on this campus for plaques or certificates. They don’t earn grades for their work and the end-of-year stipends are pretty tiny given how much time they invest in chronicling the history of this College.

They do it because they care, because they are curious, and because they believe in continuing the tradition of being the students’ voice at Wabash College.

And on this 100-year anniversary of The Bachelor, it’s a fine thing for our students to bask in the glow of last weekend’s ICPA convention, once again proving the value of a liberal arts education that teaches students to think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely.