Tribune writer returns to Star as visiting adviser

By Grant Miller

Last week employees of The Northern Star got some of the best journalism training available—one-on-one consultation with a practicing journalism professional.

Jean Davidson, Chicago Bureau Chief at the Chicago Tribune worked as a “visiting adviser” at the Star last Wednesday and Thursday.

Davidson came to the newspaper as the first of many Star alumni who will sit in as “visiting adviser” throughout the academic year.

“It’s really refreshing to come back and see the Star,” Davidson said. “For someone who’s been out working for a while, it kind of reminds me of where I came from.”

Davidson is a 1980 graduate of NIU. While she was here, Davidson worked on the Star as a reporter and as the city editor.

“Working at the Star then was a lot like it is now,” Davidson said. “It really is a working newspaper, not just a classroom laboratory. We had the advantage of seeing our work in print and getting feedback, which certainly wasn’t always positive.”

As city editor at the Star, Davidson got the chance to work under current Star adviser, Jerry Thompson. “Jerry Thompson is one of the best teachers a student journalist could have,” Davidson said. “Jerry Thompson never lost his fire. He recognizes a good story a mile away.”

Davidson claims to have always had an interest in a journalism career. “It was something that I always knew that I wanted to do.” Davidson said. “I liked the idea that my writing could really make an impact.”

After her graduation from NIU, Davidson quickly began work at as a reporter for the now defunct Suburban Tribune, also known as the “Little Trib”.

“I had worked as an intern at the suburban section of the Chicago Tribune between my junior and senior years,” Davidson said. “I was then hired by the Suburban Trib two weeks after I graduated.”

When the Suburban Tribune was absorbed into the Chicago Tribune, Davidson was asked to be a reporter. Davidson also worked for a while at the city desk of the Los Angeles Times before getting her current position at the Tribune.

“Some of the more important stories have been sort of bird-dogging the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Children and Family Services,” Davidson said of some of her experiences at the Tribune. “There is a great deal of waste and really serious goof-ups,” Davidson said. “Through some of the stories things changed, if only temporarily.”

While working as the visiting adviser, Davidson participated in editor news conferences, helped edit news stories and worked with Star reporters.

“I thought working as the visiting editor was a really interesting idea,” Davidson said. “I thought it was a good chance to see how things are working at the Star and on campus now.”

Davidson senses that journalism is changing. “I think that journalism is always evolving and that it is getting more explanatory as well as getting more interpretive.” Davidson said. “But I also think that it is providing a lot more information.”

Davidson advises journalism majors to get as much work experience as possible. “Working at The Northern Star is about the best experience a student can get at the college level,” said Davidson. “Work experience is critical.”