Winter 2012/13
19
that the way people wanted information had changed and would
change. Virtually no one got their news from a computer, but we
experienced moving the process of creating the newspaper from
the pasteboard to the computer. We were seeing our work in a
new way on computer screens even though our readers only saw
the final product as ink on paper.”
It was during the 1990s that
The Volante
, with its full-ride
scholarship students leading the way, that the paper began to
garner national attention. Mary Jo Hotzler ’99 was a Neuharth
scholar, the second fromWatertown, following in the path of
Emily Ford ’92 to the offices of
The Volante
in the Coyote Student
Center. Now editor of the
Grand Forks Herald,
Hotzler said the
expectations of excellence at
The Volante
made a tremendous
difference in her career. “Penny Russell-Roberts (now Slezak)
was a tough cookie, and I remember how she pushed all of us,
made us understand the reality of our role on campus,” Hotzler
said. “Yes, we were a student publication, but we were held to
professional standards. The outside world was watching what we
did, she taught me, and we all took it to heart.”
Hotzler was leading the paper when the first website for
The Volante
was crafted, and she said the connections she made
there still remain among her close friends and peers in the
industry. “Honestly, it’s interesting now, because I’m the one
hiring interns, and I say this honestly, from my experiences in
Fargo (she worked for several years as an editor at the
Fargo
Forum
) and now at the
Herald, Volante
interns are leaps and
bounds better prepared for work in a professional newsroom,”
she said. “I am so thankful, because I use the lessons I learned at
USD, and more specifically at
The Volante
, each and every day.”
Those high standards pay dividends.
The Volante
was the
winner of the National Pacemaker Award, the college journalism
equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize, for the first time in 1993. Staffers
of the paper have gone on to claim that esteemed prize six more
times, including back-to-back wins in 2011 and 2012. The
intense focus on excellence has made
The Volante
a success, not
only among students who read it, but on a larger stage.
Nick Kotzea ’04, ’08 was, like Hotzler, a Neuharth scholar,
and was part of
The Volante
team when it moved its headquarters
from the Coyote Student Center to the newly renovated Al
Neuharth Media Center, formerly the New Armory. Kotzea
attended the USD School of Law after completing his degree and
his time at the newspaper, and said the experiences at
The Volante
shaped a number of young professionals like him.
The Volante
is a unique part of USD, in that it serves as a
learning laboratory for prospective journalists,” he said. “Many
graduates who worked there are now established parts of the
media, and many others took their experiences, like I did,
and went on to professional degrees in law or medicine or
other fields.”
Kotzea said the role played by Jack Marsh, a Freedom Forum
leader during Kotzea’s tenure with
The Volante
, served as an
adviser to staff and a mentor to many who contributed to the
paper’s daily work. “He really guided us, and that sort of insight
was crucial to our success,” Kotzea said. “It can be dangerous,
arming 20-year-olds with newspaper ink, but Jack made sure,
for the most part, that we took that freedom and went in the
right directions.”
As
The Volante
looks back at 125 years, it’s safe to say the
myriad changes of the media industry also are part of its lineage,
and that its central role as the students’ voice will continue to
shape the way it conducts business and brings freshman reporters
up through the ranks to editors. “Today, students have so many
sources for information, but
The Volante
’s watchdog role for the
students of USD remains a key to why it survives, and thrives, in
this age of information,” said Hotzler, reflecting on
The Volante
s
future. “At the same time, all who work or who have worked there
come to realize they are at the controls of something larger than
their stories, it’s a special tradition, and it is an important part of
The Volante.
Top,
Volante
alumnae Hotzler and
Hagerty at
Grand Forks Herald;
an image of
Volante
website;
2000s columnist Nick Kotzea.
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