I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates
to catch up.
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A real-life lesson for young journalists
By Barry Schrader.................................May
N.M., home last week, and he said he didnt feel
it necessary to run when police started advancing on the crowd,
telling police he was a Star staffer. The cop clobbered him with
a billy club as he calls it and ordered him to disperse.
He made the unfortunate decision to confront the officer and
argue about his rights. Soon he found himself under arrest, tightly
cuffed with plastic bands, and carted off to the Sycamore jail
in a busload of student protesters. He stayed in the lockup overnight
until other Northern Star staffers collected enough money to
bail him out, and eventually the charges were dropped by DeKalb
County States Attorney James Boyle.
Sometimes one column begets another, such as the one on the
Civil War soldier Deck Wesson and his heroic steed Old Charlie.
Now its happened again, when I wrote about
the student protests after the Kent State shootings.
readers who were part of or witnessed the rioting and protests
during May 1970 at Northern Illinois University and in the city
had comments about their experiences.
the old news accounts, something that intrigued me further was
the tug of war between the campus newspaper and law enforcement.
As you might expect, the Journalism Department and
Northern Star taught students all about First Amendment rights
as journalists and how to exercise them. Then they faced a real
world test of those Constitutional rights and found something
In talking with former Star photographer
John Patsch, now a staff photographer for the Herald-News in
the Joliet area, he said he learned that it was not smart to
hang with a group of journalists when TV crews are using bright
lights to illuminate the action. He was close by when someone
threw a rock that smashed the lights out. But Patsch is 6-foot-8
and an easy target himself. I stood near him on the police side
of the Kishwaukee River bridge one night, knowing they would
not aim at me first.
But two student-newspaper
staffers got busted while exercising their First Amendment rights.
The first was Larry Spohn who doubled as a reporter-photographer
and was with a mob of roaming students near Lowden Hall. I reached
him by phone at his Albuquerque,
Police in riot gear advance on a crowd of students on
the NIU campus in May 1970. (NIU History Archives photo)
Bystanders watch an overturned NIU vehicle burn during
campus rioting in May 1970. (Photo courtesy of NIU Regional History
bring Spohn some degree of fame as the Rockford Morning Star
ran a front page photo of him and the cop during their confrontation.
The Chicago Tribune wrote an editorial defending his right as
a journalist to be there covering the story, and the Society
of Professional Journalists took up his cause at their next meeting
in Chicago. He was a sophomore at the time and recalls this as
the most exciting event in his college career. Later Spohn went
on to become an award-winning science writer and then deputy
editorial page editor for an Albuquerque newspaper.
other arrestee was Star editor Ken Trantowski. Last week, I found
him in the Chicago area where he is president of his own public
relations and marketing firm, KGT Communications Group Inc.
Trantowski said he was counseled by the late Roy
Campbell, then faculty adviser to the student newspaper and an
old hand at newspapering. They knew that law enforcement might
want their newspaper negatives or photos to use as evidence when
prosecuting student protesters, and they also believed they had
the right to refuse to turn them over to officials. But then
three state police officials showed up at the newspapers
campus office with a subpoena for the negatives. When the young
editor said the negatives were no longer there and would not
turn them over, they used the subpoena as an arrest warrant and
off he went to the same Sycamore jail. He said Campbell had contacts
at the Chicago Daily News, who quickly dispatched lawyers to
get him released.
Trantowski relates how the negatives
were being spirited out the door almost the minute the officers
arrived at their building and were moved around from place to
place for fear there would be a search warrant issued later.
Retired NIU J-Department photography professor Hallie Hamilton
recalls receiving a package of them, which he stored in his freezer
for a while before they were retrieved by a staffer and moved
elsewhere. No one seems to know where they ended up. I checked
out the NIU Regional History Archives and they aren't stored
there. The statute of limitations has run out by now, so they
are only of historical value today.
What an exciting
time for young journalists who learned their classroom lessons
well and put into practice what they had been taught, despite
facing daunting circumstances.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115