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Alumni Journalists Discuss Their 'Daily' Days

Event celebrates project to digitize The Daily Northwestern’s complete archives

Five alumni of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications returned to campus Thursday for Northwestern’s Homecoming to reminisce about cutting their journalistic teeth as staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

Sponsored by Northwestern University Library, the event celebrated the announcement that The Daily’s nearly 120-year archives have been digitized by Northwestern, Students Publishing Company and Newsbank, Inc., and will soon be available for digital browsing online.

The distinguished panel featured Medill alumni who have had tremendous success as reporters, editors and columnists across a variety of media including the Chicago Tribune, USA Today and ESPN. They all agreed that their time working for The Daily was not only enjoyable, but also helped them to hone their reporting skills and gave them an advantage when entering the job market.

Assembled under the reunion tent on Deering Meadow and addressing a crowd of their fellow alumni, the panel consisted of Christine Brennan (J ’80, GJ ’81), a sports columnist for USA Today and member of the Northwestern Board of Trustees; Rance Crain (J ’60), president and editorial director of Crain Communications; George De Lama (J ’79), former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune; Donna Leff (J ’70, GJ ’71), a professor at Medill; and Michael Wilbon (Medill ’80), a commentator for ESPN. Medill Professor Charles Whitaker (J ’80, GJ ’81) moderated the discussion.

Panelists first spoke about their experiences working for The Daily, and the variety of important subjects they tackled, from sports to the civil rights movement. They also mentioned the lessons they learned and the great preparation the student newspaper provided for their careers.

“Most of the discipline that I’ve learned in journalism -- it all started at The Daily, and I’m very thankful,” Crain said. He also said he applied the skills he learned as a college sports reporter to his eventual work in marketing.

Panelists also spoke about sports journalism, as Brennan and Wilbon discussed the importance of The Daily in getting them ready for careers covering professional athletics.

“It was so much fun,” Christine Brennan said. “It was also preparing us…for our life’s adventure. I don’t even want to use the term work, because it’s not work. It was what we were meant to do, and we were getting the best experience in the world doing it.”

During the Q&A session, technology and the future of The Daily Northwestern were important topics. Brennan said adapting to the technological market is essential for The Daily’s continued success.

“People want content more than ever,” she said. “People are reading more than ever. This is really our time -- we just have to adapt.”

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