Dec 082011
 
Authors: Erin Udell

Linda (Carpio) Shapley never expected to end up in the field of journalism.

But she did.

She didn’t attend CSU with the hopes of becoming editor in chief of The Rocky Mountain Collegian.

But that happened, too.

Happy accidents and unexpected careers

Shapley, who led the paper in 1991, said she applied to the Collegian on a whim — one that led not only to her current career, but has also allowed her to be a part of a legacy tracing back more than a century.

The Rocky Mountain Collegian published its first edition on Dec. 9, 1891 and, in the 120 years since, has covered things ranging from the fire that destroyed Old Main to the end of College Days — an annual campus-wide party that often ended in tear gas and handcuffs.

“I don’t think my future career, which I’m still in today, would have been possible without the Collegian,” said Shapley, who currently serves as the director of newsroom operations at the Denver Post, in an email to the Collegian. “I had always been a newspaper reader, but I learned what it meant to be a journalist – always questioning, never satisfied and dedicated to doing whatever had to be done to get the story.”

“What I learned very quickly was that the people I worked with were all like that, and it made me want to be better.”

Sam Noblett, the current Collegian editor in chief, came to his current position much like Shapley did.

“I wanted to do something in photography,” said the junior liberal arts major. “I looked for clubs, I looked for classes and then I applied to the Collegian.”

“And despite coming in from photo, I found myself really caring for the Collegian as an organization,” Noblett added. “It’s as much about the people as it is the product. Everyone comes together for this paper.”

Noblett said this passion for the paper helped him make the ultimate decision to become its 2011-2012 editor, joining the ranks of more than 100 other editors in chief who dedicated themselves to the Collegian.

A place to learn

For Allison Sherry, the 1999-2000 editor in chief who now serves as the Denver Post’s Washington D.C. chief, the Collegian was always more than a hobby — it was the reason she came to CSU.

“I started at the paper the summer before my freshman year,” Sherry said, adding that she eventually worked her way up from a staff reporter position.

“There were a lot of experiences that were great,” she added. “It taught me to always be on the lookout for news, no matter where you are … even if you’re just in college.”

Working for a daily paper is what Sherry said she ultimately credits for helping her first train those reporting instincts.

“I would hope that they (student newspapers) still inform the student and sort of act as a forum for debate and a paper of record,” Sherry said. “That’s what every paper should strive for.”

Those defining moments

For almost all editors in chief of the Collegian, it’s safe to say they remember one incident that characterizes their time at the paper.

For Sherry, it was the 1997 flood, which left the entire Collegian staff without a newsroom during her time as editor in chief. The staff eventually moved into an unconditioned warehouse off campus, something that made Sherry’s final year more difficult than ever expected.

“That whole experience – trying to put out a paper, not being on campus, trying to recruit reporters — that was hard,” Sherry said.

Unlike Sherry’s newsroom memories, one of Shapley’s favorites stays true to CSU’s agricultural roots.

As editor in chief, Shapley said the newspaper was cruising to its midnight deadline when her friend called about a yearling steer that escaped from a livestock pen, crashed through a glass hall in Edwards Hall and ran into an empty dorm room.

“The night reporter was out on a story or at dinner, so I grabbed a notebook and hightailed it across campus,” Shapley said. “…I found the student whose room it was in and talked to him as he listened to his prized Grateful Dead bootlegs get destroyed.”

“The story was picked up by AP (Associated Press) and won me a national award for spot-news writing, but it’s a testament to good sources — we wouldn’t have known if my friend hadn’t called — and the power of a great story.”

Leaving a legacy

Throughout its 120 years, the Collegian has received national attention and several awards. But, according to former employees, many treasure the friendships made at the newspaper.

Greg Luft, the current head of the CSU journalism department and a Collegian reporter and columnist during 1978 and 1979, recalls the personal connections made with former staffers.

“I will say that it’s been a great experience, as chair of the journalism department, to see and reconnect with former staff members — many of whom have come to visit in recent years,” Luft said in an email to the Collegian.

“As it is today, the Collegian newsroom in the 1970s brought students together and provided a place to get involved, have a say in content and become close friends.”

As written in Gary Kimsey’s “The first 100 years: a historical review of the Rocky Mountain Collegian:”

“They sweated, fretted, cursed, cried, laughed, sighed, joked, faced sleepless nights, made enemies, found friends, discovered lifelong mates in the news room, drank too much coffee and beer, missed too many classes and parties, and didn’t have enough time left over for their textbooks – all to put out some slips of paper that weigh only a few ounces. They learned what the newspaper business is all about.”

Click here to see a list of all Collegian editors in chief

News Editor Erin Udell can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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