By Chris R. Allison
Despite 35 years of changes and evolving technology, The Brookhaven Courier continues its tradition of informing the Brookhaven College community and documenting the many facets of life on campus and in the community.
The Courier’s origins are rooted in the creation of the journalism program. In 1978, Brookhaven’s inaugural year, journalism professor Dr. John Neal taught Beginning Reporting and Introduction to Mass Communications. A handful of students enrolled in those courses made up the original staff of the school news- paper. The first issue of The Courier was published on Nov. 22, 1978.
Without the benefit of modern software and computers, the production of the paper depended on a more difficult process of laying out pages of type and images by hand, Neal said. The introduction of computers into the program in 1987 simplified the process. Software and hard- ware improvements continued to streamline the process over time. In 1995, the format of the paper was changed from tabloid to broadsheet.
The paper’s name is credited to Neal. “I was the one that decided it,” he said. “I wanted something with the ‘B.C.’ initials. I considered ‘Chronicle.’ I went with ‘Courier.’ I like what ‘Courier’ represents. It has a lot of meanings,” Neal said. Neal also lent his expertise to design the paper’s original nameplate.
The greatest reward as director of the journalism program and adviser of the newspaper, Neal said, is seeing students learn so quickly. “It’s very rewarding as a teacher to see students making that progress,” he said. “I always felt that it was my job to get the students to a point that they don’t need me.”
Former Brookhaven student Daniel Rodrigue returned in 2012 to take the reins as Neal entered phased retirement. “I got started in journalism here at Brookhaven,” Rodrigue said. “I took News Gathering and Writing and never looked back. Some of my fondest memories of working on the paper are editing at three in the morning.”
Rodrigue earned a master’s in journalism from the University of North Texas. Despite a hectic schedule as a contributor for The Dallas Observer, he was inspired to share his wisdom with the next generation of journalists. “Part of why I knew I wanted to teach is journalism students learn by doing,” Rodrigue said. “You really have to learn it hands- on. I think a lot of people fail because they don’t know what it takes to cut it in a real news- room,” he said. “This is a real newsroom.”
Neal and Rodrigue have seen several students go on to have successful careers. Kristin McKenzie (now Kristin Zeito), a former Courier Editor-in-Chief, interned with and later became a staff writer for The Dallas Morning News. Joy Tipping, a student in Brookhaven’s inaugural year, would use what she learned writing for The Courier to become a staff writer and copy editor for The Dallas Morning News as well.
The Courier staff has won a number of awards in the last 35 years for competitions hosted by the Texas Community College Junior Association and the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association. The most recent competition, the TIPA conference held in April in San Antonio, led to 16 awards for the current staff.