COLUMN: 1974 EIC talks past, future of The News, journalism

COLUMN: 1974 EIC talks past, future of The News, journalism

Dann Gire, Former Editor-in-Chief

The early 1970s brought three sweeping changes to the EIU journalism world:

1) Eastern dumped the quarter system for the new-fangled semester system, prompting administrators to sound like John Cleese explaining black holes as they tried to convert academic credits from one format to the other.

2) Former Chicago Sun-Times reporter and Mattoon fugitive John “Dave” Reed took charge of the Eastern News from legendary department chair Dan Thornburgh, then went on to hone and inspire kajillions of J-students all over campus from the Pemberton Hall basement to the hallowed halls of Buzzard.

3) The three-day-a-week Eastern News became the Daily Eastern News in the fall of 1973 under the smart, assured guidance of editor-in-chief Jerry Idoux.

The Communications Board, at loggerheads over who should succeed Idoux in the spring of 1974, finally compromised and named Jim Pinsker and me as the first co-editors-in-chief in the history of the newly minted Daily Eastern News.

In our editorials, we called for the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon, and he obliged us later in the year.

On the lighter side, we boldly advised the student body to “be chic – go streak!” and a couple dozen or so Easternites went running, motorcycling and strolling au naturel across campus.

Unlike our politicians, they had nothing to hide.

Jim and I were blessed to have a rip-roaring staff who made us look good: section editors Mike Cowling, Mike Walters, Rick Popely, Terri Castles, Harry Sharp, Jim Lynch, Craig Sanders, Scott Weaver and ad manager Dick Grosboll.

Going daily proved to be a daunting, psychological hurdle. Would we be able to juggle our studies, our drastically increased journalistic responsibilities, our social lives and other extra-curricular activities without flunking or going nuts?

No way.

So most of us dumped our social lives and extra-curriculars, or at least cut them way back.

And what did we get in return? We all know the answer, don’t we?

We get to practice for one of the greatest professions in American history, a job so important to a free society that some president might say he’d prefer “newspapers without government” over “government without newspapers.”

At a time when many people live under government without newspapers – and an alarming number of U.S. citizens would prefer that now – we stand and have stood united (most of us sit) behind the DEN (soon to be the EN again) to ensure that critical information flows to our readers, viewers and listeners in hopes that in some way we contribute to the creation of communities exemplifying justice, equality, fairness and tolerance.

We will always remember the tension and camaraderie forged under deadline pressures, all while scrambling to get that last important quote, creating the perfect headline, fixing the misspelled word in graph six, making sure the photo faces the right way, and taking pride in creating something important that bears our names.

As the News evolves once more, adapting to a new market, some things will never change.

You just read them.

Dann Gire was Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Eastern News in Spring 1974.