To the Editor:
I recently learned that the Western Herald’s survival is at stake. The idea that a newspaper that has served my alma mater since 1916 (as in, established during World War I) may go under three years short of its 100-year anniversary is unfathomable.
I’m not just a mere graduate of Western Michigan; I was a member of the Western Herald staff for three years as a staff writer and senior reporter. My experience at the Herald is the foundation of my entire career as a journalist, writer, and English professor.
It was at the Herald where I learned how to conduct research, prepare for interviews and work under tight deadlines. It was difficult to get into the journalism classes and by the time I started on my major, I had two years of student journalism experience behind me. More importantly, the skills I learned at the Herald helped me cover stories both in rural and urban settings. As a newspaper reporter, I covered everything imaginable: features about local people, schools, murder trials, and acrimonious local politics. I earned three Michigan Press Association awards from my work, which I could not have done without my experience at the Herald.
In addition to teaching, I am currently researching and writing my first novel. While I value my bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University, I value my experience at the Herald even more.
It was not just the practical hands-on experience at the Herald that made me who I am today, but just as importantly, the friends that I made there. In addition to helping me develop as a journalist, they helped me grow as a person; they taught me how to step out of myself and to reach out to other people. They are still my good friends, though I don’t get to see them as much as I would like due to geography.
As a community college adjunct professor, I understand students may not see the value in a campus newspaper. The Internet provides the illusion that anyone can have the reach of any well-known publication or broadcast outlet. These critics need to understand that a built-in audience, such as the one the Herald has due to its history and place at Western, is considered invaluable by media marketing gurus. The Herald is dedicated to being the voice of the students, and on occasion, the staff. It is not the mouthpiece of the administration, making it essential to the vitality of the university. Without the Herald and its radio counterpart, WIDR-FM, students will lack avenues that have the legitimacy and power of these two respected media outlets. Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook do not have the eyes and ears of the powers that be like these two homegrown institutions.
Students may wish to discount the voice of a middle-aged Herald alumna, but if they fail to preserve these two student media establishments, the voice that will not be heard will be their own.
For the price of an app, students can continue to have their opinions known and their interests represented. What app can be more important?
Michelle L. Conklin, Class of 1991
Western Herald alumna 1987 through 1990
Adjunct English Professor
Harford Community College
Bel Air, Maryland