Giants have walked through these doors
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By Rob Breeding
Faculty Adviser, 2012-2016
I’ve thought long and hard about what, if anything, I might write for the final issue of the Northwest Trail. There’s a lot I could share, mostly tales of the adults in charge misbehaving, badly. Instead, I’d rather focus on the real heroes of this joint: the kids who have graced this newsroom the last 4 1/2 years.
They are the rock stars. They are the young adults who walked into NWC with little or no experience, yet published an award-winning newspaper.
The Trail had been through a rough patch when I was hired in 2012. My first staff numbered less than 10 at the start of the year, and the only one with any experience was the editor, Jessica (Keller) Livingston. Jessica assembled a good staff, however, including photographer Russell James and designer Tim Bahr. By the end of the year the Trail was producing newspapers strong enough to earn an Associated Collegiate Press Newspaper Pacemaker Finalists Award.
We couldn’t quite beat the Miami-Dades and the Santa Ana (California) Community Colleges we were judged against, but we gave them a run for their money.
Her staff accomplished that despite Jessica losing her father midway through the fall semester.
I was blessed to witness profound moments of bravery in this newsroom. When young freshman reporter Jeff Victor noticed a discrepancy between what our future college president said about her record, and the actual facts of that record, he got on the phone and asked her to square the contradiction. To her credit, she admitted her mistake and we all moved on.
Cheyenne Wiley, through solid reporting, also forced into the light of day the reason for the abrupt resignation of a popular and talented professor in the music department. It’s not as if rumors hadn’t already spread across campus, but Wiley confirmed the story and the NWC community learned the facts they deserved to know about their institution, and for some, why their classroom had been so severely disrupted.
That same year Wiley penned a feature about a volleyball player who temporarily lost her hearing. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and published in newspapers and websites of more than 30 dailies across the country. Mark Kitchen is still trying to calculate how much he’d have to spend to get that kind of ink for NWC. I often see him with his calculator at Uncommon Grounds on Saturday morning, crunching the numbers.
Over the years, Nikayla Cooper, Chelsea Blake, Matt Strissel, and Bre Warren captured some amazing images for the “Trail,” and both Marc Lamberger and Schyler Allyn upped the newspaper’s social media game.
We’ve had some great talent run this newspaper the last few of years. Makenzie Beck — Mac Daddy in these parts — and Alex Nicholson have been stars on the desk. Nicholson deserves bonus points for having the honor of being named editor in chief, then have the rug pulled out from under him when the program was canceled. That didn’t stop him from working his butt off this last semester to make sure the Trail died with dignity.
And I simply don’t have words to express the job Alex Preis did serving as editor last year. The character she demonstrated in the face of unabashedly hostile sources is the kind of leadership this institution should hold up as an example of what we should aspire to, rather than eliminate.
It wasn’t her fault the “adults” on campus kept screwing up, whether it was leaving guns in classrooms (or clumsily trying to cover it up) or posting inappropriate things on Facebook about student discipline or just acting plain silly in the face of a looming budget crisis. She paid a price for her commitment to the truth, but she’s a stronger person for the trials this college put her through.
And finally, there’s one student who I am not reluctant to admit was my favorite. Having my daughter Abbe on staff for a year was a joy, though as any dad who has coached one of his kids can attest, it’s a joy that comes with challenges. Still, whenever I have one of those “I wish I’d never stepped foot on campus” moments I’m reminded of those evenings Abbe and I spent working in the newsroom, then walking home to fix dinner. In those moments of recollection I realize no matter how disappointing the ending, I’m sure glad I came.
The only thing that would have made it better is if Abbe’s twin sister, Zoe, had spent the year here as well, playing soccer, so those late dinners could have been for three.
There’s a whole list of kids — Cameron, Rylee, Liam, Acadia, Molly Molly, no-make up Brittany — Trail staffers and non-staffers alike, who stretch out before me in an endless stream of wonder. It includes former students at other schools as well, Julia at Flathead Valley, Katie at Idaho State, and the Northern Arizona Lumberjack wrecking crew that starts with Molly, Sarah, Mica, Jordan and Erika, but includes so many more.
Maybe someday a smart person somewhere will create a public college with education at its core, rather than education administration. It would be a place with mostly students and teachers — you know, the thing we do. Now that’s a joint that would rock.
I hope to see you all there.