Guest column: Daily or not, Stater still the Stater

Ben Wolford

When I graduated from a Portage County high school in 2007, I knew exactly what I wanted to do next: get a job writing for the Daily Kent Stater.

Ohio University had its splashy E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and a cast of notable alumni. But the school’s financial aid package was like a cold shoulder. And besides that, the Daily Kent Stater was an institution. It had covered the May 4 massacre, and its (former) office had a view of the memorial from its scrappy newsroom in Taylor Hall. I wanted to learn to be a reporter on hallowed ground, within a rich history of great journalism.

That summer, I got a job as a features reporter for the Summer Kent Stater. Four years later, I became the editor-in-chief, a post graced by Pulitzer Prize winners and many talented others whose shoes I might never fill.

On my first Sunday night as editor, we missed the midnight deadline to send the paper to press by almost three hours. I called the printer at a frightful hour, and the woman on the phone said something like, “This isn’t going to be a regular thing, is it?”

It was not. My young staff excelled and went on to provide depth and commentary on the news of the day, and asked tough questions of those who pull campus strings. When a new forensic analysis of May 4 audio recordings seemed to implicate a mysterious youth named Terry Norman, two of my (best) reporters tracked him down to North Carolina.

But already the woes of the professional newspaper industry had hit the student newspaper industry. We cut salaries and travel. We stopped paying columnists. We reduced pages.

This semester the Daily Kent Stater became The Kent Stater for the first time since December 1953. Despite my initial nostalgia, I won’t mourn the loss of the Tuesday and Friday print editions.

Venerable institutions aren’t immune to changing times. Actually, they’re venerable because they have adapted while preserving their character and function. The Kent Stater and are valuable forums, common places where the ideas dreamed up in Bowman and Cunningham and Cartwright halls — and Kent City Hall — can spread around the community. The journalists will still ask tough questions of powerful people.

If I were just graduating from high school next spring, I would know exactly what I want to do next: get a job writing for The Kent Stater.

Ben Wolford, class of 2011, is a former Daily Kent Stater editor. He is now a freelance journalist and a subeditor at the Bangkok Post.