Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Jim Killam
Jim Killam

John Puterbaugh
John Puterbaugh


Northern Star adviser, editor speak
in Oklahoma about covering tragedy

April 14, 2008

by Mark McGowan

The faculty adviser and editor of the Northern Star joined their counterparts from Virginia Tech last week in Oklahoma for “Coping with Crisis,” a daylong series of talks Monday, April 7, about covering tragedies.

Northern Star adviser Jim Killam and editor-in-chief John Puterbaugh and the Virginia Tech representatives (Kelly Furnas and Amie Steele) were invited by the Gaylord Ambassadors of the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Sessions included a morning presentation to about 300 Oklahoma high school journalists, an intimate afternoon chat at the student newspaper offices and an evening all-university forum in the Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center.

“We have gained some knowledge from covering this that we can pass on to the journalism community as a whole,” Killam said. “I feel good about being able to do that.”

Discussions ranged from advice on what the University of Oklahoma could do to prepare for a shooting – “We said, ‘Not a lot, short of turning your campus into a police state,’ ” Killam said – to a debate of conceal-and-carry laws to a picture of the journalistic experience of international news unfolding just outside the newsroom and the classroom.

“Students wanted to know what it was like in the newsroom,” Killam said. “We started out by giving them the timeline – here’s what the student journalists did and when they did it – and then took questions about covering the story while being part of the story.”

Killam, Puterbaugh, Furnas and Steele also had opportunities for private conversation between sessions – conversations that all four found equally as valuable as speaking to audiences that day.

“Those were good talks,” Killam said. “We had a lot of similar experiences after our tragedies, and we’ve talked throughout the past few weeks. So it was just nice to see each other and support each other.”