The low pay. The late nights. The last-minute interviews. Deadline pressure. Breaking news. Coffee runs. Election-night pizza. Front-page bylines. The student newspaper at Washington State University has been providing hands-on journalism experience in what many former staffers describe as a kind of learning laboratory for more than a hundred years.
Here, former staffers share some of their memories of writing the first drafts of history for the Daily Evergreen. Some recollections are written by former Evergreeners themselves. Others are written by magazine staff. All capture a sense of the hard work, time management, and lessons learned in the basement of the CUB and, later, the basement of Murrow Hall.
My daughter, Kathy Maurer, shared your Throwback Thursday photo with me today. Imagine my surprise to see my photo when I was associate editor.
I think we had moved into the CUB at that point. The most important daily task I had in that job was driving any photos we were using in the following day’s paper over to Moscow by noon to be processed into what we called “cuts,” basically wooden blocks of whatever size the news editor had picked. Then, I picked them up that evening at the bus station in Pullman and ran them over to the Pullman Herald where the Evergreen was printed.
As associate editor, I received a $50-a-month stipend, or it may have been for the semester. News editors received $25 or $30 dollars.
Probably my most interesting story happened when I was a first-semester freshman taking my first news writing class. As such, I had the Friday afternoon shift in the Evergreen office. I was the only one in the office other than our adviser, who also taught the news writing class, when we got word that the Board of Regents was in the process of firing Wilson Compton, president of the college. I was told to get the story.
To say that I was inadequate to the task is an understatement, but I spent a long afternoon on the phone and writing and rewriting the story. It appeared in the paper, but was also turned in as a writing assignment. When I got the paper back I got an A-, to which the instructor added, “Of course.” It was an important story, and he contributed a great deal to it, but I was pretty proud of myself when it was all over.
I didn’t work directly for the Evergreen my senior year, because I was on the Board of Control, what we called our student government at the time. But as a journalism major (at that time we were really English majors with a certificate in journalism), I still wrote some stories and hung out there a lot. We had a lot of fun while we were putting out a paper that the students actually read. Good times.
Thanks for sharing these memories.
Marilyn Gohlman Knight (’54 English)
At age 14, I may have been the youngest Evergreen sports editor ever.
I had completed Office Administration 101 (beginning typing) the previous summer, so I was no stranger to the WSU campus. In fact, I had been attending sporting events there since I was born on campus.
The opportunity to become sports editor in 1968 came when I enrolled in WSU’s High School Summer Camp, which brought a couple hundred junior high and high school students to campus for up to four weeks. I enrolled in its journalism class that was taught by Tom Heuterman.
Most of the writing I did that summer was re-writes of information by the campus recreation department and an occasional announcement from the athletics department. My only byline during the four weeks was an article about current and former Cougs playing summer baseball, including Danny Frisella with the New York Mets.
My stint with the Evergreen was the first step in a journalism career that included eight years as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers in Washington, Idaho and Montana. Others in the summer camp class also had professional careers as journalists.
‘A living laboratory’
I worked on the Evergreen from 1972 to 1975, during which time I served as assistant sports editor, sports editor, managing editor, and editor. Most of my friends and all of my college girlfriends were fellow Evergreen staffers, and there are quite a few memories which I can’t share. I have two that I can—one recent, and another from my days on the paper itself.
The recent memory: When I started work on the Evergreen our office was in the basement of the CUB. In the fall 1972, we made the move to our new location in the basement of Murrow Hall, the current location of the newsroom. In those days, the paper was assembled by hand, and the back shop was located in an adjacent room to the west of the newsroom. We would type our stories on paper, then hand them to the copy editors who would mark any changes in red pen, then pass them to the back shop where they would be retyped and “set” on strips of waxed paper to be pasted onto the page based on the design editors’ layout. To facilitate the passing of the edited copy to the back shop, there was a hole in the wall between the news desk in the newsroom and the back shop.
Several years ago, a group of friends I golf with took a trip to Pullman to play Palouse Ridge and other regional courses. Our first night in Pullman consisted of me giving them a tour of campus. When we passed Murrow, I noticed lights on in the newsroom, so we went in so I could show them where I spent many hours during my college days. There were a handful of students in the newsroom working on the welcome edition. As I explained the layout of the room, how things worked, and the purpose of the hole in the wall between the newsroom and what is now a conference room, a young man who was the editor was standing nearby and overheard my explanation. When I was done, he came over and said, “So that’s why there’s a hole in the wall. No one, not even our adviser, has been able to explain that.”
Besides demonstrating how old I am, it also shows just how far technology has come in producing the Evergreen. Long gone are the days when actual pieces of paper were used for editing and it was a physical process to produce the paper. Now everything is done on computers. However, all that work is still done in the newsroom we initiated in fall 1972.
Actual memory from days on the paper: As described above, our process of producing the paper was a very physical task. Although we had progressed from actually using physical type, many aspects still resembled the days of physical type. One of those involved writing headlines to fit. You couldn’t just type a headline, then use a computer to make tweaks to the size of the type to make it fit. Instead, you had to write a headline with certain character counts specific to the style and size of the font. If the copy editor wanted a 48-point, single-line headline over six columns you would check to see how many characters you could write in that space, then develop your headline accordingly. Since not all characters used the same space you had different counts for capital letters—two for most letters and 2 ½ for “M” and “W”—while lower case letters were one count, except for some that were ½ and easily remembered by the acronym “flitj” for the letters f, l, i, t, and j.
One day we were doing a story on suicide among college students, and the article pointed out that it was more prevalent than people believed or were even aware of. We were close to deadline and hadn’t come up with a headline for this story. After several copy editors had struggled with a proper headline that fit, I strode in (I was managing editor at the time), read the story, and wrote a headline. I counted it out, and it fit perfectly. The problem was solved, the copy editor approved the headline, and it was set in type and graced the top of the front page of the paper the next day. My wonderful headline was: “Suicide more common than thought.” And, while on one level it made sense, it also carried with it the idea that suicides were more prevalent than thinking on college campuses.
The next day Tom Heuterman, who was then the assistant dean, had a field day at my expense with that headline. “Bruce,” he said, “You just confirmed what I have long believed with that headline.” Years later, when I saw Tom at the event to establish the scholarship in his name, he still remembered that day.
Although it was embarrassing at the time and is now funny, the story also underscores how the Evergreen truly is a living laboratory where students can either achieve glory in the eyes of the community or fall flat on their face in embarrassment. To me, that is really the strength of working on the Evergreen. While other students have their work critiqued by professors, working on the Evergreen allows you to seemingly fail in the eyes of many, although those “failures” are really some of the best lessons you can learn as a working journalist.
I can truly say that working on the Evergreen was the greatest memory I have of my days at WSU and was extremely instrumental in shaping my career as a journalist and corporate communications professional.
Bruce Amundson (’75 Poli. Sci.)
‘A second home’
When she walks past Murrow Hall, Kimberly Atkinson Holapa (’95 English, ’07 MEd Higher Ed. Admin.) says, “I still feel like I should be turning to go into the basement. I spent so many hours there it just became my second home.”
She got involved with the Evergreen “from the get-go,” joining the staff as a freshman in fall 1992 and working on the paper through spring 1995, when she graduated. Between Advanced Placement and community college credits, she was done in three years. But she never really left, getting a job on campus in 1996. She’s since worked in a variety of roles, most recently as associate vice president of External Engagement & Strategic Initiatives in the Division of Student Affairs.
She had been the editor of her high school newspaper in Irvine, California, and that “landed me in the basement of Murrow, in the newsroom. They told me when I was hired that I was the first freshman they had hired in anybody’s memory. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s what they told me. I started out as a general reporter. Then I got assigned as beat reporter for ASWSU. Then I was the branch campus section editor. WSU had just launched all the branch campuses, and we had a quarterly publication with branch campus news. I edited it, which means I got to visit all of those campuses as a student.”
She was managing editor in spring 1994, editor-in-chief in fall 1994, and managing editor again in spring 1995. One of her most memorable experiences: editing the 100-year edition, which published in spring 1995. “It took about semester to do it,” she says. “We went through the library archives—we went through everything—to celebrate the centennial.”
During a recent but pre-pandemic visit to the Murrow basement, “I told them who I was and said hi and just wanted to peek in.” To her surprise, one of the then-current staffers told her they had just put the special 100-year edition on the bulletin board. She went to take a look, “and sure enough, there it was, with my little mugshot on it.”
One of her biggest responsibilities as editor-in-chief was personnel management. “You’re hiring and firing your peers,” she says. “I had to fire someone because he wouldn’t work. He was just hanging out. And I learned so much about people and leadership in the process.”
When she first joined the staff, “it was just a job. I needed money. It turned out to be so much more. I made lifelong friends.”
She also learned time management. “You’re balancing it with your course load and trying to have some kind of social life, and you learn so much about how to function in that space,” she says. “There are so many ways it impacted everything since then. It opens your world, particularly when you develop relationships and connections you keep your entire life.”
Hunting Mr. Hunt
I worked as an opinion writer from 1994 to 1995. While in the newsroom, I would often go through the archival papers to see how things had changed at WSU and with the paper. I ran across a series of incredibly humorous columns that ran from 1962 to 1964 called “Hurtin’ Hunt’s History and Horoscope,” an ahead-of-its-time humor column written by Dave Hunt that was still as fresh in 1995 as it had to have been in 1962. Using an alumni directory, I tracked down a “Rev. Dave Hunt” who resided in Tasmania. Using what had to be a boatload of overseas phone minutes charged to student publications, I tracked down Mr. Hunt through a local church in Sheffield, Tasmania. There was laughter on the other end of the line when I asked if they knew a “Reverend” Dave Hunt. Hunt would later tell me that he marked the “Rev.” box on the alumni relations card as a joke.
My article on “Hurtin’ Hunt” ran on page four of the Feb. 24, 1995, issue, and included a new installment of Hunt’s column—31 years later. Mr. Hunt left the United States in 1967 and has resided in Tasmania since the 1990s. I visited him over Christmas in 2007 and still correspond with him regularly. He’s 83 now. It’s definitely a life-changing relationship that I would not have made but for the Daily Evergreen.
Brian Gunn (’95 Comp. American Cult.)
From the archives: Meet Brian Gunn.
‘Honed my craft’
I worked for the Daily Evergreen for three years, which was a long time back then. I showed up in fall 1993, wandered down to the basement of Murrow Hall looking for a job, and found one. Throughout the next six semesters, I dabbled in a lot of different things. I was a news reporter writing from afar about brand-new branch campuses that I didn’t really understand. I got to cover the 1994 NCAA tournament-bound men’s basketball team and, in the fall, the Alamo Bowl-bound football team. I later served as the French Ad reporter, then editorial page editor followed by assistant managing editor, then editor. It was a fantastic learning laboratory where I honed my craft with an uncommonly talented collection of colleagues who all went off to find their magnificent fortunes in many walks of life, many of them starting in media. I’m certain I’m not the first to have met my spouse at the Evergreen. In my case, I gave her a tour of the place before she ever enrolled. An 11-year career in newspapers was parlayed into work at the Legislature and later to serving as the university’s chief liaison with state government. I’m occasionally interviewed by Daily Evergreen reporters and use the opportunity to regale every one of them with tales of the glory days of my era. The Evergreen remains an important institution, training ground, and a critical student voice for the historical record.
Chris Mulick (’97 Comm.), director of state relations for WSU
‘Main source of news’
Journalism is something you learn by doing and at the Daily Evergreen we experienced the excitement, frustration, and terror of having to put out a daily newspaper. I remember many nights in the back shop with the production crew as we furiously cut and pasted the last articles as the guy from the printer waited not so patiently to pick up proofs for the next day’s edition. The Evergreen was the main source of news for WSU and Pullman. A scoop would have the whole campus and town buzzing, but if you got something wrong, well, it was right there for everyone to see. Working at such a widely read publication made you realize early on that words, pictures, headlines—they all matter. Feedback from everyone from roommates to the university president was instantaneous. There was no better training for young reporters, photographers, and editors than toiling at an actual, daily newspaper. As many of us moved on to bigger newspapers and media organizations the day-to-day work wasn’t any different than what we had done in the basement of Murrow Hall. And I think most of us would still say it was the most fun we had—covering the news for Cougars.
Chris Grygiel (’01 Comm.)
Note: Grygiel left Pullman in 1992 “but didn’t technically graduate until, I believe, 2002. I worked at the Evergreen so much I was a few credits short, so eventually finished up with a correspondence course. I initially worked for The Associated Press, covering the legislatures in Carson City, Nevada, and Helena, Montana. I also worked for AP in Anchorage, Alaska, and Indianapolis before moving to the national desk in New York City as an editor for about four years. I returned to the Northwest in 2000 and worked at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as the night city editor and then the political editor. I was a reporter and editor at seattlepi.com for several years after the newspaper went online only. I returned to AP in 2011 and am now the Northwest news editor, based out of Seattle, and overseeing coverage in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.”
‘A spark for journalism’
My time at WSU was inseparable from time at the DE. I was writing my first story, a profile on the new student regent, before ever stepping foot inside a classroom. Learning about all the “backstage” stuff that went into a producing a newspaper—copy editing, headline writing, design—was such a revelation that it’s what I do now to make a living. I didn’t know the career I’m currently in was possible before entering that office.
It’s hard to pick out one memory because the time there really blends together and it went by really fast, but I really enjoyed working on our special sections—Mom’s Weekend, Dad’s Weekend, graduation—and also our football weekend and our weekly themed entertainment sections. Everyone tried to get in early because of all the copy to read and extra pages to design, and though those nights were the most stressful, I always left the office feeling the most accomplished and the most proud of our staff.
We had a really solid group of editors when I was a reporter, and they made sure we were ready to take over once they were gone. After becoming an editor, I used to joke to my roommate that I spent more time in the Murrow basement than at our apartment, but I loved it. A newsroom, especially filled by people you like who share a similar passion, becomes a pretty magical place.
We also did our best to train the group after us, passing on as much as we knew while also encouraging them to make it their own. Each time I’m in Pullman, I make sure to snag a copy of the paper just to see how it looks, and each time I couldn’t be more impressed. That, along with having a few WSU interns with us this summer at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, made it crystal clear that the paper continues to be a labor of love.
The Daily Evergreen really did get me ready to work in a professional newsroom. While we had an advisor, it was our show each day. Students reported. Students edited. Students designed. We had to make editorial decisions. We had to figure out editorials. If we messed up, it was all on us. We could report on administration activities and hold them to account as well as any other outlet. If you’ve got a spark for journalism, the Daily Evergreen is going to fan it into a flame.
Ryan Horlen (’11 Comm.)
‘Grateful for the opportunity’
It’s cliché, but I don’t know where I’d be today if I hadn’t worked for the Evergreen.
I’d always wanted to be a writer, so getting a job as a reporter for the campus newspaper wasn’t a stretch. But I would have never gotten into editing, column writing, design, and page layout if I hadn’t been hired as opinion editor for the summer and fall of my senior year.
Jennifer Ladwig (’18 Comm.) was the editor-in-chief for those eight months, and she recruited me to her staff after I’d worked up the courage to talk to her in our video editing class. I never would’ve imagined myself capable of a leadership role, but Jen asked me to step up, and that choice changed the trajectory of my career. To this day, she is still my closest friend and colleague.
That summer at the Evergreen was full of days spent peddling the joys of newspaper work to campus tours and long nights putting together the weekly issue. At that point, it was a low-stakes environment perfect for learning, staff bonding, and lots of laughs. Our adviser, Jacob Jones (’07 Comm.), an Evergreen alumnus himself, used to tell us to “fail faster” by trying out new things now instead of waiting until we were in the real world. The mistakes we made were critical to honing the talent so many former Evergreeners are known for today.
Things got a little more real when the fall semester began. It was 2016, and the concept of fake news paired with the presidential election led to an outpouring of critical responses through our website, Facebook page, and letters to the editor. When I published a guest column from the president of the College Republicans, in which he claimed conservative students were being bullied and threatened for their views on immigration, it kicked off a storm of discourse and protesting that lasted until election day.
Despite being in the bubble of a college campus, the real world was creeping in, and I felt powerless. I still don’t know if the decisions I made back then were the right ones—there simply wasn’t anything to compare it to—but I remain grateful for the opportunity to make those tough decisions.
I went on to work for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News as a news desk editor, a job that utilized all the skills I’d learned at the Evergreen, and a handful of more positions after that. I still make mistakes. But the ethics and judgement I’d learned alongside my fellow student journalists, both at the Evergreen and in our classes, continue to shine through in my work today. I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.
Alysen Boston (’17 Comm.), staff writer for WSU and contributing writer for Washington State Magazine