By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief
TCC’s student newspaper, The Collegian, celebrated 30 years of serving the Tarrant County College District Aug. 29.
The paper was established as a districtwide newspaper in the fall of 1988, replacing the three independent campus newspapers on each of the college’s existing campuses at the time.
The college opted to go from three campus papers to one district publication because administrators believed students from all campuses would be better served by having one districtwide paper rather than one for each campus, said Joe Norton, the first district director of student publications.
“Cost was a factor, but it was not the only consideration when making the decision to consolidate,” Norton said in an email while traveling in Africa. “Our hopes were that we could provide students with a broader range of realistic experiences by having to think of the district as a whole and not just of one campus and, at the same time, keep all of the campuses happy with the coverage they were receiving.”
Former NE Campus president Herman Crow spearheaded the idea and challenged Norton to put together the proposal for administration to consider. Once approved, Norton was appointed director, and Diane Turner, who had previously served as director of publications on South Campus, was hired as adviser. NE Campus was chosen as The Collegian’s headquarters.
Under Norton and Turner, the student paper quickly became a newspaper recognized both statewide and nationally.
Once Norton retired in fall 1999, Eddye Gallagher took over with Turner remaining as adviser. Gallagher was the former assistant director of the NE Campus paper.
“He [Norton] turned in his notice of retirement on Friday morning, and I got the phone call at 8 o’clock that night,” Gallagher said.
She started at TCC in 1970, then Tarrant County Junior College, as a journalism instructor and adviser. Gallagher had been moved to the English department in 1974.
“I made a niche for myself. I created programs and courses, but my first love was always journalism,” she said. “So when Joe [Norton] retired and that position opened up ‘cause the person who was here didn’t want the job, it was offered to me and I immediately took it because I wanted to be back over here.”
Gallagher served as student publications director for almost 20 years before her retirement in July 2017.
During her time as director, she increased the staff’s use of The Collegian’s website and started instituting courses on other TCC campuses and online.
Lindsey Bever, a reporter for The Washington Post who was a former Collegian editor-in-chief, is one of many current journalists who credit The Collegian and its advisers for kickstarting their career.
“For years, The Collegian has given students a voice, as well as a place to learn to be respectable journalists. And, for many of us who worked on it, it will hold a special place in our hearts,” she said.
The first news story Bever ever wrote was for The Collegian.
“It’s where I fell in love with journalism and practiced my skills,” she said. “In fact, I still use skills that I remember learning while working for the newspaper.”
Another Washington Post reporter, John Harden, also credits his time at The Collegian for helping him discover journalism was his passion.
“Working at the paper really taught me how to be a journalist in the most basic form and what it meant to be a service to readers,” Harden wrote in an email. “I formed a solid journalistic foundation at the paper, which I still find myself building upon even today.”
Harden, who is now the Metro data reporter for The Post, said he originally joined TCC’s paper as the sports editor but was pushed by advisers to take on assignments outside of his comfort zone.
“That’s the greatest thing about The Collegian. I never felt like an island,” he said. “The paper, the staff and advisers are all there to prepare you for the future.”
His goal was always to be a data and investigative reporter, but Harden said he wouldn’t have been successful as a journalist without learning and strengthening those core principles while at The Collegian.
He noted that one of the paper’s “greatest accomplishments is landing high-quality advisers.”
For a lot of young journalists, their advisers are often the first to see their talent and draw it out of them, he said.
“I still replay advice and conversations from my advisers Eddye Gallagher and [current student publications director] Chris Whitley when I’m in a rut or starting a new job,” he said.
When it comes to former students crediting Gallagher for helping start their careers, she said she doesn’t think she helped start them. The main thing she tried to do was encourage them.
Gallagher has former students working at other big- and small-town papers around the country, some working as freelancers, some covering sports and some working outside of journalism in areas like public relations.
“It’s nice that they think that I had a part in getting them started,” she said. “It makes me feel good, but it makes me feel good moreso to know that they’re happy in what they’re doing.”
As for the next 30 years for TCC’s student newspaper, former editor-in-chief Dylan Bradley said she wants current and future The Collegian staffers to learn the same lesson she did while writing for the paper, which is “how to ethically practice journalism.”
As for the former director, Norton said he hopes The Collegian can continue the same momentum for the next 30 years.
“For the future, I would hope The Collegian can maintain the same degree of integrity and quality it has demonstrated and that it would continue to meet the challenges of serving a multi-campus educational institution,” he said.