Where WE got started

By Collin Quick

The Weekender you know and are holding in your hands right now is about the same age as most NIU students.

First dubbed Spotlight when it premiered on Thursday, September 8, 1983, the eight-page entertainment section was considered a bit risky.

“Our newsroom advisor at the time thought that the section was fluff,” said Sharyl Holtzman, former editor and creator of the Spotlight. “We were told that the resources that we have should be directed toward the news aspect of the paper.”

Bringing about an entertainment section to the Northern Star was no easy task. Holtzman said she had to lobby for a bit to get the section up and running.

“I had gotten back from a society of professional journalists weekend and noticed that a good amount of papers had an entertainment section and that the Northern Star was lacking one,” Holtzman said.

Even though Spotlight was the first entertainment supplement, Holtzman said record and movie reviews were worked into the paper, but never truly featured in a way that they should be.

The first issue featured a two-page spread on the Holmes Student Center Board showing movies that had mass appeal instead of artistic movies that were underrated at the time of release.

On top of the standard cover story, Elvis Costello’s “Punch the Clock” and Asia’s “Alpha” were both reviewed in the vinyl section and the classic road trip movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation” was given two out of four stars in the movie section.

“The main reason we started the Spotlight was because students didn’t get a comprehensive feel for what is going on at NIU as far as arts and music wise,” Holtzman said.

Along with restaurant reviews and weekly trivia contests, the debut issue also showed students how to manufacture their own drug paraphernalia out of random objects, such as apples and beer cans.

“People were really surprised and didn’t know what to make of it,” Holtzman said. “We went for a very artistic concept with hand-drawn covers and photos for the cover.”

Even after the release of the first issue, Holtzman said the section still caught some slack.

“It was a departure from what the paper had ever done before,” Holtzman said. “It was foreign and I was told that it was unnecessary.”

But it didn’t take long for Spotlight to catch on. Within a week, the section was receiving fan mail from students, though not all letters were rave reviews.

“The job of drug enforcement officers is hard enough without you telling everyone how to get around the laws,” junior Andy Johnson wrote in response to the make-your-own-drug-paraphernalia article.

Spotlight ran for three years before the section was slowly phased out and the Weekender that is now known came into existence.

At first, Weekender was part of the Thursday paper instead of the removable section that graces the paper today.

“There’s a better appreciation for the section now than there was before because pop culture is so mainstream and savvy,” Holtzman said. “To see it so well received makes me happy.”