Winter 2012/13
17
The Volante
and its staff continued to refine their work in the
early years of USD, adding and removing ideas and elements as
they went. One of the key contributions that did not change with
time was how
The Volante
served as testing ground for young
journalists. That aspect led Gerda (McClintic) Mason ’36 to seek a
job there when she began study at USD in 1932. “I had worked as
a proofreader at the
Watertown Public Opinion,
and I was majoring
in journalism, so I wanted a spot with
The Volante
,” Mason said.
“There was competition for jobs on campus in general, because of
the Depression, and I was so glad to get one. We worked hard, but
it was fun. As a staff, we really enjoyed one another’s company.”
Mason, who now lives in Rapid City, S.D., also worked as an
editor on USD’s yearbook, The Coyote, and went on to work as
a journalist at a newspaper in Hartington, Neb.
“As a journalist, your nose gets to twitching when you sense news,
and while I did not make my career in the news business, those
instincts I learned at
The Volante
served me well in my life,
traveling around the world,” she said. “It got me started on a
lifetime of writing, and the skill of being able to get along with
about anyone, that was one thing I certainly learned as a journalist.”
Alumna Marilyn Hagerty ’48 worked at
The Volante
during an
era when USD went from bust to boom in terms of enrollment.
She began as World War II was nearing its end and graduated
when the soldiers from that war were filling campus classrooms
and residence halls. Hagerty’s career in journalism began before
her time at
The Volante
, and it continues to this day: she wrote for
several Midwestern newspapers, most notably (and longest) the
Grand Forks Herald
in North Dakota. At USD, when the chance
arose, she took it. “Women during World War II had the chance
to take over because the only men on campus were either 4F
(medically exempt from service) or studying medicine,” she said.
“So we took that chance, and we led the paper as best we could,
seeking out and recruiting writers from across campus.”
After the war ended, Hagerty sought to recruit talented
writers for the paper. One was a young man from Eureka, S.D.
Al Neuharth ’50, was certain radio was “where it was at” until
Hagerty spoke with him. “‘You don’t want to go into radio, Al,’
I remember saying that to him,” she said. “I explained to him the
quality of people we had at the paper, and it seemed to work.”
Neuharth’s lessons with Hagerty and other editors and writers
led to his industry-impacting career in journalism, one that truly
proves the way
The Volante
could be a starting point for success.
After graduating, Neuharth created a weekly sports paper in
South Dakota, but after it failed he worked at
The Miami Herald,
climbing the ladder from reporter to editor over a decade. He
joined the Gannett Corporation, and as one of its key leaders,
expanded its revenues by an astounding 1,450 percent. He
founded
USA TODAY
in 1982, which continues to stand as the
most widely read newspaper in the U.S., and he retired in 1989.
Neuharth has never been shy about acknowledging the
roles of both USD and
The Volante
in the noteworthy success
that is his career. To show his appreciation, he began a
scholarship program to recruit high school journalists to
USD. Penny Slezak served as the first Neuharth Fund
coordinator and
Volante
adviser when the program began
in 1988. “The Neuharth Excellence in the Media program
provided
The Volante
tools with which they could, and
ultimately would, make the newspaper one of the best weekly
college newspapers in the country,” Slezak said. “These tools,
established by the Freedom Forum and implemented by
the Neuharth Advisory Board, included a visiting journalist
program that brought in journalists from around the country to
work with
The Volante
staff; four-year scholarships for incoming
freshmen and an annual Neuharth Excellence in Journalism
award that honored nationally known journalists.”
Beyond the scholarship program and Freedom Forum,
Neuharth also helped support the development of the Al
Neuharth Media Center at USD. During his address at its
dedication in 2003, he noted the role USD holds in his success.
“Since leaving home a half century ago, I’ve worked and/
or traveled in all 50 states—most of them many times—and
crisscrossed six continents,” he said. “But my years growing
up in Eureka and Alpena, USD summer ‘vacations’ working
on newspapers in Aberdeen and Mitchell and Rapid City, and
Gerda (McClintic) Mason ’36
Marilyn Hagerty ’48
1940s staff reads their work.
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