By Erin Marissa Russell
Today, journalism students create The Brookhaven Courier with up-to-date design software and digital cameras. But when the first issue was published on Nov. 22, 1978, it was a different world.
“Layout was done in pencil on dummy pages, with “x”s to show the position of photos or illustrations”, then-program director Dr. John Neal said.
Students clacked away on typewriters to finish articles and turned in typewritten copies. They were edited in pen before they were sent to North Texas Publications for printing, which arranged the text and art according to the dummy page layouts.
Student Juan Porras developed the photos for the first issue in his home darkroom, because the building wasn’t complete for the Brookhaven College darkroom, located on the bottom floor of L Building.
Editors went off campus to the printer’s to review and edit stories for two to three hours per issue, Neal said, and each change not only required re-setting the type, but making adjustments for article length.
Now, in addition to using digital photos and designing pages on the computer, journalism students focus on integrating social media, filming and editing video footage, creating podcasts and maintaining websites.
Former Brookhaven publications adviser Larie Engles said although the skills remain the same, the methods have changed drastically.
Now, news is delivered through various forms of media, and students need to be able to write in a way that is appropriate to the right form. Although Neal said it would be hard to predict future developments in journalism, the basics will be the same.
“I think writing skills are still basic, and I would add to that, photography skills,” Neal said. “You’ve got to be able to write if you’re going to go into print, into broadcast, into public relations, just about any field.”
Engles said for journalism majors, community colleges are a great place to start, because students receive more individual attention than they would at a university. Anyone who learns to communicate more effectively, regardless of major, will be better off no matter what career path they choose, she said.
“I think [journalism is] a vital part of our society,” Engles said. “I think it’s a watchdog for our government, which is so important.” She said in addition to journalism’s importance on a broad scale, the Courier is a part of campus life. Engles said the Courier spreads information between students, professors and administrators as well as serving as a historical document for the college.
Of course, the Courier’s primary purpose is as a learning lab for students. Student writers, photographers and layout designers who are enrolled in journalism courses produce each issue. The Courier also hires a student editorial staff each semester.
Past Courier editor-in-chief Kristin McKenzie said Brookhaven’s journalism program helped her find the career path that ultimately became her major. “My time at the Courier taught me to appreciate the hard work and devotion it takes to produce an accurate and thought-provoking news product,” she said. “I learned the importance of fair and balanced, unbiased news writing.”
Phil Harvey, former Brookhaven student and Courier staff member, is now a contributing editor for D CEO magazine and editor-in-chief of Light Reading, the largest online communications publication in the world. He said his only academic journalism instruction was at Brookhaven.
Harvey said he learned the value of a reader’s time and attention at the Courier. “Dr. Neal was always encouraging and constructive in his praise and criticism,” Harvey said. “He kept pushing the newspaper staff forward and allowed us to learn from our mistakes.”
Alumni who have gone on to journalism careers also include Deborah Broussard Randolph, broadcast news anchor and reporter; Dena Hill, author of a nonfiction book on singer Bobby Sherman; Terri Howard-Hughes, owner of Mediaforce Productions; Max Stacy, a TV photojournalist and editor at CBS News Dallas; and Joy Tipping, writer and copy editor for The Dallas Morning News, who authored two books under the name Joy Dickinson.
The Courier’s current student publications manager and adviser, Rori Harrington, is a past Courier editor-in-chief.
Journalism and photography professor and Courier adviser Daniel Rodrigue, who is also a Dallas Observer contributing writer, was a Courier copy editor as a Brookhaven student.
Students interested in getting involved with the Courier can sign up for a news publications or a journalism course. For more information, students can call the newsroom at 972-860-4787 or email [email protected]