J-Student Spotlight: Jake Donahue, North Idaho College, UWIRE 100

Jake Donahue loves Little League.  He has coached five Little League baseball, three basketball, and three soccer teams, amassing an above-.500 won-loss record and a not-so-secret desire to serve as a high school or small college athletic director.  He also just may be the country’s most talented young news designer.  

Colleagues who served with him on The Sentinel at North Idaho College describe his design prowess as sheer innovative genius.  According to the paper’s news editor, “I have seen him do things with InDesign that I formerly did not know were possible.  Jake’s imagination in the process of design is unparalleled by anyone I have encountered in the industry.  Even the local paper in our area looks to our publication for design ideas. . . . He is truly a man amongst boys.” 

The 24-year-old journalism major, who currently serves as Sentinel editor in chief, has a larger-than-life persona.  His personal blog is even called “The Jake” and features a reconfigured Hollywood sign that now screams “Jakewood.”  The reference is well-deserved.  His landmark journalism work in the past year alone exposed a drug scandal that led to the resignation of the NIC student union president and separately caused a heated debate on handicapped rights (and wrongs) at the university (see Q&A below).  

For his über-design sense and sensability, his editorial gung-ho-ness, and his man-amongst-boys mystique, Donahue recently earned a spot on the vaunted UWIRE 100.  Today, he also rightfully takes his place in CMM’s “Student Journalist Spotlight.” 

Jake Donahue

Sentinel editor in chief Jake Donahue poses with his fiancée.

Write a six-word memoir of your student journalism experiences so far.

Writing works, editing helps- design dominates.

What is the best piece of journalism advice you’ve ever received or given?

This quote is from Steve Jobs (Apple Computers).  I’ve had it blown up on a huge sheet on the wall above my computer monitor, and I’m pretty sure I look at it whenever I have a tough decision to make.  I’ve never been one to let the masses decide what I’m going to do, and I feel that The Sentinel has benefited from that mindset this past school year.  It’s worked so far: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes . . . the ones who see things differently- they’re not fond of rules.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things . . . they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.”  [Editor’s Note: If you are not inspired after reading that, please change professions.] :)

Memorable behind-the-scenes production moment.

The funniest (and by far, most memorable) moment in my journalism career happened during my stint as Sports Editor.  I had written countless sports columns on what I had thought were somewhat controversial matters, including how to hunt grouse from a moving truck- without spilling your beer; what it would be like if we could douse our Little League teams with steroids; and even comparing Johnny Damon to Jesus Christ and proclaiming that the sequel to “The Passion of the Christ” undoubtedly involved the Boston Red Sox.

Those would all remain lackluster when compared to how I ended my stint that semester.  For most of the year I parked in a handicapped spot just outside the newsroom.  There were four handicapped spots empty ALL THE TIME, so I got away with it easily- until I finally got a ticket.  Bewildered, I penned an article titled: “If Handicaps Can Drive, They Can Walk 30 Feet.”  Holy Mother of God!  We received letters from the Disability Association of Coeur d’Alene, VFW, and the NIC Board of Trustees (some letters were even directed toward THEM concerning me!).  Our editor in chief then wrote an editorial stating that while “Jake Donahue is an ass and freely admits it,” she still felt obligated to publish my article, because while I had gotten a ticket that day, SHE parked right next to me without getting a ticket, sans a handicap permit! More letters poured in. . . . Our college even called me in for a meeting.  They recognized the fact that we cannot be censored, and thus formally asked me to write a retraction.  Well, I took that into account, but still wrote a follow-up: “Stuck on Handi-CAPS Lock.”  I didn’t come close to apologizing, but my two articles did spark a debate in the City Council on whether they have too many handicap parking spaces, or whether they are in the right places.  I like to think I won.

What first sparked your passion for journalism?

It would be incredibly hard to pinpoint a certain moment.  I was deterred from journalism many, many times, but my current journalism advisor, the national guru known as Nils Rosdahl, is the greatest influence I’ve ever had.  Obviously over the span of a few years he alone has convinced me I’m on the right track- he’s also the one who’s shown me how to get where I want to go.

What are your predictions for the future of college journalism?

I think it’s pretty obvious. As local dailies continue to shrink, and they focus more online-only, college papers are thriving.  Even their websites dominate.  Just look at The Daily Kansan.  They make tens of thousands of dollars by selling Jayhawk merchandise on their Web site, along with contests drawing thousands of entries (each a non-traditional money-making method newspapers are not known for).  I believe one reason that college newspapers thrive is their sheer dominance on campus: Everywhere you go, there is a free newspaper.  Keyword: FREE.  Especially since college students are broke, FREE is synonymous with success- no matter the material.

Another amazing aspect about college is journalism is that we can attempt anything imaginable, and whether we succeed or fail, we’re still going to print another paper. Being able to take risks without worrying about the publishing company’s aftermath (nor the audience’s reaction), is the single greatest reason college papers will always exist, both in print and online.  . . . [W]e will weather through the current newspaper Armageddon unscathed.  We will obviously be tailoring an online presence to match the success of our printed product, but printed newspapers will last a long, long time on college campuses.

What is one question we should all be asking much more often about the current state or future of journalism?

Is it worth it?  Sometimes we get stuck in traditional roles that worked long ago, such as charging a mere pittance for the paper (25, then 50 cents) while relying on advertising revenue to drive the wallets of our publisher.  Indeed, those tactics worked swimmingly decades ago, but what about now?  Rather than tossing in Web site advertising as a free premium add-on to a printed package, thus diminishing the value of what we now must rely on, we must solely focus on where the masses read the news: ONLINE.  It’s very easy to state what must be done, but I believe it will be incredibly difficult to transform the printed advertising mindset into an online force.  And whoever figures it out will become lavishly rich!

You wake up in ten years. Where are you and what are you doing?

Probably still lying in bed if I just woke up . . . and hopefully working from home running my own magazine or (better yet!) publishing company.  Because although the future lies in online media, printed publications will never perish.

Comments are closed.