Jim Harger tells current students what he thinks they should do to excel

In a series of interviews, we asked our Alumni about their experiences at CM Life. Read on to see how Jim Harger shares his "Life Story."


In celebration of CM Life's upcoming 100 Year Anniversary, we asked alumnus Jim Harger to reflect on his time at CM Life and how it helped him get prepared for the job he has today.

Q: What year did you begin working at CM Life?

A: Fall of 1974. Transferred to CMU in Junior Year from Calvin College after the first two years.

Q: How long were you here?

A: I started as soon as I got here. My roommate was in our dorm with a friend who was the CM Life editor at the time, Laurie Lynn. Tom, my roommate, said there was a meeting that night for anyone interested. Since I was there for journalism, I thought it'd be cool to work for the school newspaper. They gave me an assignment. It sounds absurd now, but it was cutting edge back then, "Should They Allow Students to Use Their Calculators In Their Classrooms?"

Q: What position did you work in?

A: I was a reporter for both years.

Q: What were some of the highlights or favorite memories while working for CM Life?

A: I was with Jim Reindel and we covered student government. During my senior year, we uncovered an embezzlement case in which the student body President and VP, with the knowledge of the student body treasurer, had embezzled money from a slush fund that had been created the year before when a life insurance company had bought a list of all these student names so they could solicit them to sell life insurance. Everybody had forgotten the fund but the student body Prez and VP were low on cash and took the money from there. When word got out, they claimed they signed a note that they’d pay the fund back to the time they withdrew the money. I discovered this was a promissory note they wrote the weekend their embezzlement came out. It led to resignation of treasurer, VP and President of student body.

Q: How did your experience with CM Life influence your career?

A: 75% of what I learned about Journalism, I learned at CM Life. That’s not to denigrate the instructions we got, because it was excellent. Only when you actually write a story and you see how your readers react to it, you see how your editors react, your sources respond to it and you learn the consequences of not getting it right - those are the real lessons of becoming successful in journalism. How do you actually swim in those waters? You can look at the lake all day long but until you jump in and start swimming you don’t know how to.

Q: Do you still keep up with CM Life regularly?

A: I follow the Twitter feed so if there’s a story that looks interesting, I’ll certainly read it.

Q: Where do you work now?

A: Well, I worked from 1980 until last May I worked for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive. At the end of April, I took a buyout from MLive and now I'm working doing some writing for a website called School News Network. Which is a website that is operated by Kent Intermediate School District. Basically we write feature stories about local schools. I also work for a church as a volunteer coordinator position. I help people plug into ministries in their church and make sure ministries have all the resources they need.

Q: What advice would you give to current CM Lifers?

A: Excel at your classes because that’s important, but dive in. If you’re covering sports, get the best sports team you can to follow. If you’re doing news, find the beat that has the most going on in it like myself and student government. Get on a good beat and learn how to work a beat. You look at any successful reporter, they know how to develop sources, develop a beat, where to go for the info, who you can trust and who you can’t trust. Get a good beat and dive in.

The 100 Year Anniversary celebration will be at Soaring Eagle Casino and Conference Center on Nov. 16 at 5 p.m. Click here to purchase tickets. They must be purchased by Nov. 13 at 4 p.m. in order to attend.