It’s the summer of 1987. A kid from a small town, just graduated high school, enters an office here on campus. He’s confident, but he’s nervous regardless. He has experience, but not THIS kind of experience. He’s a freshman, looking for a job, not so much for the money, but for THAT kind of experience. He got that job, and it would turn that kid into a man, and shape his future to this day.
My name is Dana Clark, and that kid was me.
My journey with the MSU Reporter started in 1987, “back in the day” as we say. But before we get to that, let’s set the stage with a little background.
I grew up in Windom, Minnesota, a small town in the southwestern part of the state, roughly 65 miles southwest of Mankato.
As I entered high school, I was asked by my English teacher, Robert Lindaman, to join the high school newspaper, the Tatler. I don’t know why – maybe he had liked my writing on some assignment or maybe he was just looking for a student or two who knew how to write a correct sentence.
I accepted the challenge, and immediately knew I liked it. Not just the writing part. Not just the interviewing people part, or the story research. Not just the layout and design part. It was all of that, and the smell of that ink on freshly printed newspaper.
I came into the Reporter office that first day of fall semester, where I met with the Editor in Chief at the time, Cathy Hay. I told her about my high school experience, which honestly was nowhere near that of a college newspaper.
But, I was here to learn, so she gave me a chance and hired me on the spot. If I remember correctly, I worked that same day.
I started as a Production Assistant to then Production Manager, Tom Teigen. He was a cool dude, and we immediately bonded talking about music. He was older, so obviously, our tastes were slightly different. Regardless, I really loved working in the Reporter office as a student.
Lester: “So you’re the kid who’s been sending me those articles from the school newspaper?”
William: “Yeah. Yeah. I’ve been doin’ some stuff for a local underground paper also.”
Lester: “Yeah. What? Are you like the star of your school?”
William: “They hate me.”
Lester: “Yeah. You’ll meet them again on their long journey to the middle.”
(Almost Famous, 2000)
Long before the 2000 movie ‘Almost Famous’, I wanted to be Cameron Crowe’s character, William Miller. I wanted to be that teenage journalist who wrote for Rolling Stone.
After all, I loved music, mostly the hard rock, classic rock, heavy metal stuff. I wanted to go on tour with one of my favorite bands. I wanted to see behind the curtain. I wanted to meet famous musicians.
That didn’t happen, but I did eventually start writing some Arts & Entertainment section articles, some album reviews, and some concert reviews.
I was happy to do get that chance during my last few years working as a student, but something strange happened along the way… I became a Graphic Artist.
As I was having so much fun in college by this time, March of 1991, actually – I was having too much fun.
My grades suffered, and I left school and got a job. After all, I was living here, and I wasn’t going to get rent money from my parents if I wasn’t in school.
I worked at Cub Foods for a while, tended some bar at the Mankato Morson-Ario and Eagle Lake American Legion, but eventually got hired in late December of 1992 at Taylor Corporation as a Graphic Designer/Typesetter.
I stayed at Taylor Corporation until March of 1996, by which time I had been married for two years. While I would have liked to stay there, but at the time, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I floated around for a few years, working for the St. Peter Herald, Home Magazine and MGA Graphics.
Then one day in 2001, while working at the Home Magazine, a woman from the past came into the office. We conversed, caught up, and said goodbye. The next day, I got a phone call from that same woman.
Her name is Jane Tastad, and she was the Reporter’s Office Manager (and still is). She was curious if I wanted to possibly interview for the Graphic Arts Supervisor job for the Reporter. I interviewed, I got the job, and I’ve been here ever since.
I’m not going to lie and say it’s all been wine and roses, but what I will say, is that working in this office for the last 19 years has put me in touch with some great students. We’re all used to having students work in our offices around campus, sometimes they only hang around for only a week, and some may stay for a semester or a whole year.
Obviously, we like to get students in our office right away, as freshman or sophomores.
We want our students at the Reporter to work here as long as they can, not just for the sake of not having to re-train new students every year, but because it gives them the best chance to learn, grow and improve their skills. We want our student employees to learn about as much as they can while they are here.
In most cases, our former students do recognize how much more they were prepared for the ‘real world’ after graduation, because they worked in the Reporter office.
We have graduates and Reporter alumni doing some amazing things, and working in high profile positions. We’ve got alumni working for major companies: companies they’ve started on their own, and those working in professional settings for sports teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Minnesota Wild, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, just to name a few.
We have former students who have worked for newspapers across the country and abroad. We have former students who work for companies like ESPN, Amazon, and Golf.com.
The list goes on and on. The Reporter has been a home for students from all walks of life, from locations across the country and world, students studying a wide range of vocations; whether it be Journalism or Mass Media, or a field that you would not associate with a newspaper staff member, like Athletic Training, English, Computer Science, Art, Biology, Sociology, History, Nursing.
No matter their story or the path they took to get here, the Reporter has continued to give chances to students who may not have been given one elsewhere. We all make mistakes, and the Reporter is no different.
We pride ourselves to do our best, but when we do something wrong, we stress that it’s something to learn from, and hopefully get better because of it.
Some years are better than others, and some years we have hurdle after hurdle to overcome. Eventually, those issues get worked out by the time the year is up – then we start it all over again.
Each year brings a new Editor in Chief, new section editors, new advertising salespeople, new writers, new photographers and artists. Sure, it can be frustrating at times, but we do it – because we know we are helping these students get better each time they put out a paper.
We know that their experience in our office will only benefit them when the time comes to interview for those real world jobs, and you can’t put a price tag on experience. Giving students a chance to be a part of something bigger than them, and giving them a chance to figure out who they are and where they want to take their life path… that’s why we do this and why we want to continue doing this.
Just ask that kid from Windom.