One year ago today
April 16, 2008, 9:27 am
Filed under: Ethics, Events

I started out my news-consuming morning with this blog post on the NYT website, reading with interest what Virginia Tech is doing to move past the massacre that killed 33 students one year ago today.

Then I saw this picture …


… and it all flooded back.

One year ago today, I woke up at my last Pullman residence and checked the NYT website, like I did every morning. At that time, six students had died. Holy crap. Of course, a major news story.

When I got into the Evergreen newsroom and we flipped the TV to CNN, the death toll had risen. Throughout the day, that old TV updated us on what was easily the biggest such story since Sept. 11. Whenever we walked into the office, or simply past the TV, we couldn’t help but take a seat and solemnly watch another college campus go through hell.

We obsessively clicked refresh on the Collegiate Times‘ reserve website, after its main one overloaded from all the internet traffic. We watched our fellow student-journalists rise to the test, and we watched how much attention and respect the student newspaper received from the mass media.

At the Evergreen, Brian, Lisa and I worked together to coordinate our own coverage of the event. We had a certain responsibility, as the newspaper of a similar campus, to tell our readers what they needed to know. What happened in Blacksburg, Va.? How is WSU connected to Virginia Tech? The obligatory, “could this happen on our campus?”

Everyone in the newsroom came together — editors, writers, copy editors — to fashion our report on the incident. It was an editor-in-chief’s dream: Everyone was motivated. Everyone was helpful. Everyone was collaborative.

I just want to say thank you to everyone who helped us get through that day and put out an excellent newspaper. We really rose to the test.


UPDATE: Lisa’s comment inspired me to mention the next day’s paper, when we printed the Cougar head logo in Virginia Tech colors — maroon and orange. That conjured up some harsh criticism from the WSU administration.

For those of you who don’t know, the Evergreen got in trouble for “violating” the university’s fair use policy on its copyrighted logo. Apparently, it cannot be altered, such as changing the colors. Lisa got the bulk of the university’s heat, for some reason, and we had quite the discussion with Al Donnelly, our general manager, about our manipulating the logo.

From left: The WSU logo, the Virginia Tech logo, the logo used on a Facebook group in support of the victims, and a version of the WSU logo we printed in the Evergreen.

The original idea was to print a version of the logo used on the then-newly created Facebook group, but at some point down the line that idea turned into printing the altered WSU logo and the Virginia Tech logo separately. The altered WSU logo is what got us in a bit of trouble — although we really didn’t care.

Lisa vehemently defended the logo we printed, whereas I was willing to bend and say that, in retrospect, we could have used the regular WSU insignia in the way we used the logos (pictured below). If we had printed the Facebook group logo, I also would have vehemently defended our manipulating the colors.

Anyway, this is all a moot point now. Just thought I’d bring it up again, for some reason. Any thoughts, now that the floodgates have started leaking?


2 Comments so far
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It’s funny how that day seems both better and worse in retrospect. I fondly remember all of us checking the TV, just because we were so united in our concern. And then I also remember you scolding me and Brian for writing stories, and people upset about the graphic that compared the two schools, and the whole logo fiasco. Which is good, because a hard thing about newspapers is that we tend to have good memories about awful events, because it’s when we’re at our best. The bad stuff tempers that for me a little.

Comment by Lisa Waananen

I seem to remember not being too keen on your and Brian’s writing stories, because I wanted you two to focus on your jobs and coordinate the coverage. But it all worked well, and I’m happy with the result.

That’s true — good memories about awful events. Kinda twisted, but it makes sense. It’s not that we are happy with the news, we are happy with our coverage of the news. And it’s exciting.

Comment by Nick Eaton

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