Small but mighty, this Eagle soars

By Teri Saylor

Special to Publishers' Auxiliary

Feb 3, 2020

The Eagle of Chadron (Nebraska) State College
Kennedy
The Douglas (Wyoming) Budget has sponsored The Eagle in NNA s sponsorship program and hosted summer interns.

You might say The (Chadron State College) Eagle is a journeyman’s newspaper, where students build solid skills and graduate ready for work.

Eagle adviser Michael Kennedy, who also teaches journalism in the college’s communication department, believes in “old-fashioned journalism, with well-written, strong stories and good ledes,” he said in a recent phone interview.

Kennedy’s teachings come with a nice bonus — his students have opportunities to score internships at community newspapers in Nebraska and other states in the Great Plains and Mountain Regions of the United States.

NNA’s college newspaper sponsorship program has helped pave the way.

The Douglas (Wyoming) Budget has sponsored The Eagle, and publisher Matt Adelman has helped the college program by speaking at award banquets, judging contests and hiring students as interns. Among Chadron students who have interned at the Douglas Budget is Chase Vialpando, a junior who is lifestyles editor at The Eagle and who was a reporting intern for the Douglas Budget last summer.

“Chase has family from Douglas, and his internship worked out well,” Adelman said. “He did a great job for us and will be coming back to work for us full-time when he graduates.”

Chadron State College is in Chadron, Nebraska, in the northwest corner of the state. Located 15 miles from the South Dakota border and about 60 miles from the Wyoming border, the town sits at 3,400 feet in elevation and is surrounded by grassy plains. The population is 5,900, and in this remote place, the closest Home Depot is 90 miles away, according to Kennedy.

The relationship Chadron’s student newspaper has forged with NNA was simple to execute and is working out well, according to Kennedy.

“Last fall, Matt called and offered to sponsor us as part of NNA’s college membership drive,” Kennedy said. “He has paid our membership dues for the first year, and after that, we will start paying.”

Collegiate membership dues for NNA are $200. Sponsorship not only gives college journalists and advisers opportunities to network with professional community newspaper publishers and editors; it opens doors for internships and provides access to Publishers’ Auxiliary and other NNA communications. College journalists are also eligible to enter NNA’s annual contests.

Adelman, who is NNA president this year, has been active in the association for years and understands the value of maintaining connections with his fellow publishers.

“It’s great for us to be sponsoring Chadron State College and The Eagle,” Adelman said. “It helps foster good relationships and provides us with great reporters.”

That is music to Kennedy’s ears. He takes pride in developing his student journalists into work-ready reporters.

“I focus on coursework that gives students a solid, comprehensive foundation, covering photojournalism, editing, design, media law and reporting,” he added.

The coursework also drills down into some of the finer points of producing a quality newspaper, and 25% of his students’ grades is based on caption writing. He’s proud of the fact that his graduates leave college with the ability to walk into a community newspaper and generate content without a sizable investment of on-the-job training.

A self-described newspaperman through and through, Kennedy is an award-winning veteran journalist, whose professional and academic career spans four decades and three continents, according to his bio on the Chadron State College website.

He began his professional journalism career in 1978 as a news photographer with the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, West Virginia, while attending Marshall University. He went on to work for a variety of newspapers and news agencies as a reporter and photojournalist. He began his teaching career in 1997 at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and in 2000, he accepted a teaching position at Zayed University, Dubai. He began teaching at CSC in 2006.

“I love it here,” he said. “I love the people, the open spaces and the fact that Chadron is a one-stoplight town. I moved here for those very reasons.”

At CSC, Kennedy’s goal is to build good journalists, both in visual and written mediums. The Eagle is considered a “club” within the college structure and derives part of its budget from student fees, funded through the student senate budgeting process. CSC is a four-year college, and its enrollment is around 2,700 students.

“We usually propose and receive a budget of $14,000 per year, which covers our printing costs,” he said. The college also provides office space and equipment.
The Eagle derives other revenue through advertising sales, which cover the cost of the high school conference, scholarship money and travel to cover sports events and reporting assignments. The newspaper doesn’t have an advertising director, but it does maintain a cadre of regular customers. Kennedy himself has been known to sell a few ads.

The free-distribution newspaper is published weekly with a print run of 1,500. It also produces an e-edition and posts articles on its website at www.csceagle.com.

The Eagle competes with other student newspapers in the Northern Plains Collegiate Media Association, and last April, it took home its eighth straight “Best Overall Newspaper” award from the association’s annual Golden Leaf Awards program.

The staff is comprised of an editor-in-chief, usually selected by the newspaper staff, and a variety of page editors: news, sports, lifestyles and opinions.
To staff the paper, Kennedy has developed a fail-safe way to build a reporting and writing team.

“The students in my fall reporting class are required to contribute to the newspaper, and we recruit the best reporters and writers to continue through our spring semester,” he said.

Two years ago, Kennedy started an annual high school journalism conference, and he discovered it is a great way to recruit high school kids into his program.
Even though the Eagle is a student newspaper, Kennedy and his staff face some of the same challenges as commercial newspapers, large and small.

“Our greatest challenge is staying relevant,” he said. “We serve readers locally, but the Eagle also reaches our college alumni and prospective students, and we try to serve all their interests as best we can.”

Traditionally, the Eagle has covered only campus news but is starting to branch out to cover the greater area and town of Chadron. The town is also covered by the Chadron Record, a weekly newspaper owned by the Rapid City Journal Media Group of South Dakota.

Of all the pleasures Kennedy derives from his job as a journalism instructor and student newspaper adviser, more than anything, his work gives him hope for journalism’s future. At the end of the day, Kennedy’s greatest reward is seeing his students leave the nest and go on to pursue successful careers.
The Eagle’s relationship with Adelman and the Douglas Budget provides an opportunity for Kennedy claim those rewards.

“I focus my life on the kids,” he said. “I see them not just as my students, but as my family, and for me, that’s what it’s all about.”

Teri Saylor is a freelance writer in Raleigh, North Carolina. terisaylor@hotmail.com.