Occasionally a former The Weather Vane staffer brings into sharp relief the fact that writing for the student newspaper at a small university isn’t just a fun way to pass the time; it’s also vocation forming.
Take, for example, Canadian Mennonite executive editor Virginia Hostetler ’77, who began writing for The Weather Vane as a second-year English major at Eastern Mennonite University and the following year co-edited the features section.
That “first taste of journalism,” she notes in a recent column “The adventure of leadership,” was part of a unique university experience that “taught us about community, grounded us in faith, honed our skills and gave us the impetus to use our gifts for service.” Her student colleagues, she writes, have since worked in peace and justice, the ministry, publishing and education.
In further testament to Hostetler’s claim, alumni who read the EMU article From ditto to digital, Weather Vane and loyal staffers still ‘let readers know how the winds are blowing on campus’ are likely to recognize names of past staffers from the paper’s nearly eight-decades-long history.
For me, one of at least three staff members – along with Jim Bishop ’67 and Steve Shenk ’73, MA ’18 (interdisciplinary studies) – to later be employed in the EMU marketing department, working for the student newspaper was a foundational experience.
When I recently reread some of The Weather Vane columns I produced during my one-semester editorship in the fall of 1999, I realized that I am the same person today that I was two decades ago – continuing infatuation with dashes included. I’d say that this – the personal consistency, not the excessive use of dashes – is a reflection not of stagnation but of how that time was an integral part of shaping my ongoing existence.
Just weeks before the start of that semester, then-professor Lauren McKinney, who as I remember was about to hand the faculty advisorship over to the late Richard Benner ‘69, called me to ask if I’d like to be editor. They just needed someone to fill in for a semester and were starting to feel, I suspect, quite desperate.
I thought “No,” said “Yes,” and ended up writing wandering editorials like this one mentioning my not walking down stairs with my hands in my pockets, wisdom I continue to live by. Or, if you want to talk marketing strategy, there’s this still-relevant piece, about how it’s better to be honest than good.
Dick Benner taught me a lot about journalism that semester, often with red-ink scrawls over the latest issue but also – always – with a spirit of frank encouragement that has often come to mind during my subsequent and meandering professional life, even though after I graduated we only interacted on a handful of brief occasions.
The good news in all this is that The Weather Vane continues, in print and online. A highlight two years ago was the paper staff’s year-in-review issue, which flew off the campus distribution racks (but you can read it here).
And here’s more good news: The Weather Vane’s past issues have been digitally archived. (They’re searchable – find yourself!)
A question for alumni who were involved with The Weather Vane: What are your memories? How did the experience shape you?
Tell us your story in the comments (below), and we’ll add it to From ditto to digital.