I was reminded this week, in one of those hand of God ways, of my starting point as a journalist.

I had reached the “can’t deal with it any longer” point with a pile of papers, magazines and newspaper clippings on my Kearney Hub desk that were there because they contained story and/or column ideas or because I had intended to read them “someday.”

I successfully edited the pile down to a few good ideas and a lot of paper for recycling. However, I found one piece of history that someone gave me in the past year that I’d forgotten was in that pile.

On Wednesday, Nov. 5, a yellowed, folded copy of my Wilcox High School monthly newspaper emerged from the pile. I was happy to see it and amazed at the publication date, Nov. 5, 1973, exactly 41 years earlier.

That was in the fall semester of my senior year.


I bet almost all of my Nebraska and National Federation of Press Women friends also worked on their school newspapers. It was a start to many professional communicators’ careers, even for the ones who chose broadcasting, public relations, advertising or writing books as their focus.

My tiny, rural Nebraska school – around 300 in K-12 and a senior class that year of 17 – had an actual class, with a teacher-adviser, for yearbook production and The Eagle newspaper.

The English teacher who already had encouraged me as a writer was the first to teach me the basics of journalism writing, editing and content. The Eagle’s layout and printing were done at a small weekly newspaper about 30 miles away.

It mostly focused on school news, with a page 1 story of the National Honor Society-selected student of the month. Remarkably, there also were interview type features with local opinions on state and national news topics.

The boys wrote short summaries of the football and volleyball games, and there were similar reviews of marching band events.


There were senior profiles (think shorter, simple versions of our NFPW president’s “Talking with Teri” blog), a list of the top 20 music singles of the month, black and white photos of a silly pep club skit and other candid moments with students and teachers, and a list of November birthdays for every K-12 student and the custodian.

Wilcox was too small to have a town newspaper past its early pioneer days, so The Eagle served that role too by including community event announcements. The school was and still is the center of Wilcox events, so anything related to it is of community interest.

In the Nov. 5, 1973, edition has what may have been my first essay-column effort. It was a made-up piece about a dark Halloween night with a full moon and the sound of footsteps following me.

Not bad, I thought as I read it, even for a then 17-year-old just getting started in journalism.

However, a lot of the content and much of the editing wasn’t so good. I’m sure our teacher wanted to balance making sure nothing really terrible was printed with the need to let us make decisions.

It was a good learning process, but kind of embarrassing now. I was the student editor.