July 7, 2009

State News celebration reminds me how long a year can be

The place I really got my journalism education at- the State News - is about to celebrate its 100 years of existing with a dinner and a book.

The news organization, now offering a print edition and web site, actually is an independent organization, separating from the Michigan State University in 1971. It moved off campus and into its own building in 2005.

The State News Alumni Association will host a celebration the weekend of Sept. 12, 2009, in East Lansing, Michigan. A dinner is the main event, although football tickets may be available.

I'm promised no bagels or tacos will be served so perhaps some of the 50 or so people I worked with daily will show up. We won't have to make any food runs across the street, though perhaps some of us on buyouts, retirements or layoffs will be looking for change to purchase our tickets.

There were times when I thought my last year at at Michigan State University was 100 years long. That was the "year" I was editor-in-chief of the broadsheet published Mondays through Fridays. I put year in quotes because my appointment started early and ended late.

The final word

I was reminded of my longest year recently when a Facebook post asked if the newspaper's board of directors and editorial staff ever disagreed on the choice for editor.

It seems that the editorial department still gets to interview the editor applicants and recommend its top choice to the board of directors. But the board makes the final choice after it also interviews the candidates. Usually, the staff and board agree. Usually.

In January 2009, the board went with its own choice. Same thing happened in April 1976, when I was selected over the staff's unanimous selection.

Just say no

I was at Disney World for the first time when I got the call telling me the job was mine.

The next calls came from staff members lobbying me to not accept the position in the hopes that would force the board to appoint their choice. Others suggested I cut that vacation short and return to the newspaper right away instead of waiting to take the helm.

Later, though, I had the support of the staff. That helped when I faced an angry university president several times and had a few heated discussions with the board of directors. Oh, and I can't forget the lawyers.

MSU J school conflicts

Although many of the newsroom employees were enrolled in journalism school, there often were conflicts as employees chose newspaper experience over class assignments.

We worked at the separation of the school and the newspaper. Perhaps that is because the newspaper was still feeling its way to independence from the university.

I was surprised to learn that Jane Briggs-Bunting, who is the director of MSU's School of Journalism, is on the State News Board of Directors. That seems ripe for conflicts as the news organization frequently is at odds with the university. I'm hoping that's not why she's on the outs with the new dean of the College of Communication Arts.

1976 election night crew

Recently, I found a November 1976 election edition of The State News. That brought back memories of working late and pizzas.

I found bylines for Donna Bakun, Byron Baker, Jeanne Baron, Marti Benedetti, Kat Brown, Roxanne Brown, Alan Burlingham, Cathy Chown, Joni Cipriano, Anne Crowley, Jim DuFresne, Geoff Etynre, Phil Frame, Charlene Gray, Georgia Hanshew, Daniel Herman, Sean Hickey, Carole Leigh Hutton, Nancy Jarvis, Pat LaCroix, Joyce Laskowski, Ed Lion, Mike Macksood, Micki Maynard, Paula Mohr, Marna Moore, Janet R. Olsen, Bob Ourlian, Paul Novoselick, Judy Putnam, Tracy Reed, Marice Richter, Nancy Roger, Suzie Rollins, Edward Ronders, Mike Rouse, Michael Savel, Joe Scales, Laurie Scatterday, Ed Schreiber, Tom Shanahan, Don Spickler, Sue Steward, Anne Stuart, Michael Tanimura, Karla Vallance and Debbie Wolf.

There were photo credits for Dale Atkins, Laura Lynn Fistler and Linda Bray.

I worked with Ed Ronders at The Flint Journal and with others through Booth Newspapers. With the help of LinkedIn and Facebook, I even stay in touch with some of the crew.

Ironically, the 1976 newspaper also had a story about newspapers closing and facing dire times.

Tickets available

You can now order tickets to the Centennial celebration at the East Lansing Marriott at University Place, 300 M.A.C. Ave in downtown East Lansing. The reception begins at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. $75 for alumni members and $100 for others.

The alumni reunion event will include induction of the newest members of our State News Hall of Fame, as well as a walk through the history of The State News and a look at what the newspaper is like today.

Can't wait? Take a look at multimedia presentation showing the history.


  1. Got my invite too, but we will be on our way to Hawaii, so unable to attend. I still want a copy of the book, which I contributed to. Those were great days at the State News.

    I remember sitting in Clifton Wharton's office for two days as he ducked giving us a comment on his imminent departure to take a job at SUNY.

    Never did get a comment, but he knwew we were dogging him and it was satisfying to know we wouldn't give up.

    So many great memories and people who later went on to great things in the business.

  2. Let's see ... Hawaii or East Lansing. No choice there. We'll miss you.

    I'll keep a watch out for the book and let you know. I'll be anxious to see what's said.

    Usually when I was in Wharton's office, he was giving me a piece of his mind,

  3. MaryAnn -- I just now saw this post of yours about the centennial celebration that I missed -- I trust a good time was had by all. And, ah, that 1976 crew! The best.
    Karla Vallance

  4. Thanks for stopping by. It was a good party and a nice book.