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OPINION: Taking pride in our journalists as we look back on the past


Director of student media and CM Life adviser Dave Clark poses for a photo Nov. 13 in Moore Hall.

Journalism has sometimes been called the "first rough draft of history." 

Here, on these pages, is a spectacular history of student media at Central Michigan University. We are celebrating our alumni, featuring some of our most notable work and, hopefully, providing some perspective on how Central Michigan Life and CMU have moved through history together.

Like many other news organizations, CM Life doesn't do a very good job of telling its own story. We feel uncomfortable writing stories about us. This was a unique opportunity we couldn't pass up to share our vast history with you, our readers.

As a final word in this edition, I want to share my perspective on CM Life today. I want history to record what I have witnessed since 2013, after being hired as director of student media and CM Life's adviser.

When I look out my office window and into our newsroom, I see a group of highly motivated, talented student leaders who love their university. That's why they are here. The best journalists, in my experience, love their communities. Our journalists want Central and Mount Pleasant to be the best communities they can be. They find those hidden gems – like the story about the student who saved the squirrel's life with CPR – and they share those stories with you. Likewise, the critical stories they publish about important CMU and Mount Pleasant issues aren't produced with malice – I've never once seen that – but instead done as a public service to help us address problems openly and honestly. Not everyone appreciates that scrutiny, but it is necessary and ultimately benefits all of us.

Journalism students – and that includes reporters, photographers, podcasters, videographers, advertising sales staff and graphic designers – are hands-on learners as much as they are classroom learners. They are honing a craft and developing a skill. They are producing a product that has real-world stakes and consequences. They are sharing their work with an audience of hundreds of thousands of readers a year. When they screw up, they do that publicly – in front of everyone they know and in front of a massive, unforgiving audience they don't know. Only student-athletes and members of Marching Chips really understand what it's like to experience that pressure to show what they have learned in such a perilous, public arena.

After that failure – and every one of our students fails at something – they always return to try again. They don't quit. They don't give up. Those are the moments that I stand in awe of them. Those are the moments that make me proudest of them. They learn and they move to the next challenge.

As a journalist who started in the pre-internet era and never really dealt with the "comments" on stories and weaponized social media, I so respect their maturity and the bravery they show me daily in the face of near-constant criticism. To administrators, staff, faculty, coaches, community leaders and students who have worked with our staff to create journalism, I want to personally thank you. Your participation in what we do is invaluable. Thank you for trusting us. To those who we have failed, know that we are always striving to become better at what we do.

To the administrators, staff, faculty, coaches, community leaders and students who refuse to accommodate our students ... I wish that you could see our journalists through my eyes. I wish that you would offer CM Life and its students the same respect and consideration that you seem to demand from them. Do better.

On Nov. 16, about 250 alumni, students and guests will meet in an unprecedented gathering to celebrate our centennial. I'm humbled to be part of it, even as a small piece of this great legacy. 

Advising CM Life has been the honor of my life. I know, sometimes, I've failed our students, but I've never given them anything less than everything I had that day. I know they've done the same for me and for you, our readers. I am confident history will also remember us well.