Paying tribute to the ‘Devil’s Advocate’

This weekend was a work weekend for me — job fair, politics, prairie burns and a gala to boot — and I spent it zigzagging across Jasper County, which left me too tired to partake in one of my random weekend adventures.

So, when I wasn’t working, I spent a lot of time in my apartment doing various things and I let curiosity get the best of me. I Googled “KCKCC The Devil’s Advocate,” which is the college paper for Kansas City Kansas Community College, which is where I first learned how to be a reporter.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the Advocate was back in action and finally had a website. (Side note, back when I wanted to do web design and web video in 2005, I was supposed to work on getting that website up and running. That never panned out, sorry about that guys, Go Blue Devils!)

The reason I was so surprised was because in the fall of 2012, I had paid a visit to my former college journalism professor Bryan Whitehead, who was the Advocate’s faculty advisor, and he informed me the paper hadn’t been in print for a little while due to low interest from students.

This broke my heart. I spent so much of my late-teens and early-20s in that newsroom arguing and bonding with editors and coworkers, flirting with the cute older woman who was our ad manager and most importantly, learning how to be a journalist.

I spent two and half years as a member of that staff, starting as a staff writer and eventually becoming sports editor. I had a chance to become managing editor, but turned it down because of the time commitment it required. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it to the best of my ability since I worked at night and had classes in the day.

Finding out that the Advocate’s newsroom wasn’t brimming with the energy young hopeful journalists brought in every semester and that the room’s signature denim couch wasn’t being sat on cut me deeply.

As a writer for the Advocate, I got to know my school and the people who worked, learned and supported it so much better. I profiled coaches and players, covered a speaking event with Stedman Graham — he’s accomplished much more than just being Oprah’s boyfriend — discovered my love of column writing and got over the jitters that go along with talking to complete strangers.

Now that I see the Advocate is back up and running — and according to its website, it has nine staff members — my heart can rest easy knowing the students of KCKCC are still getting the printed word and the issues that matter most to those students are being covered and addressed.

Working for a school paper is a great opportunity for any student to take, whether you want to make journalism a career or not, just for the experiences it brings.

At the Advocate, I got a well rounded view of what to expect as a future journalist. I felt the heat that goes along with covering controversial issues — our sex issue sex issue actually landed us on two separate news broadcast from Kansas City’s NBC affiliate KSHB-TV 41.

We followed that up with our drugs issue — because well, why not?

Another bit of controversy stemmed from my profile of three softball players. In the article, the girls threw their coach under the bus and questioned the equality of KCKCC’s male and female sports programs.

The coach refuted all allegations the girls shoveled her way, and after the story was published, the girls backtracked on all of their statements, even though they were all on the record and I had the audio to prove it.

I also got to taste success by receiving high praise for my profile of KCKCC’s legendary track coach, Al Hobson who once coached KCK-native Maurice Green, formerly the fastest man in the world. I also received a slew of kudos from time to time for my sports coverage and opinion pieces.

I’m glad the Advocate is back in action and I wish all the staff members there the best of luck. Just try not to put simulated drug usage photos in the paper, use an editorial cartoon with a four letter word or write a terrible “kicker,” blame the editor and then eat crow when you realize you wrote it.

But, then again, this is college. This is your chance to learn, throw caution to the wind and most importantly, find out what it means to be a journalist. Without those experiences, I wouldn’t be who I am as a person or writer.

I encourage you guys to push the limits, make the administration nervous and give Bryan a few more grey hairs. Lord knows the staffs I served with gave him his fair share, so, what’s a few more?