Illini Media Company alumni recount favorite memories


Sydney Laput

Illini Media alum, Mark Wukas, speaks with assistant sports editor James Kim during the newsroom and studio tour for the Illini Media 150 Reunion on Friday. Alumni from The Daily Illini and WPGU talk about their favorite memory during their time with Illini Media.

By Matt Troher, Assistant Features Editor

This past weekend, Illini Media alumni returned to their old stomping ground to celebrate the company’s 150th anniversary and attend the induction ceremony of the Illini Media Hall of Fame class of ’22. Throughout the weekend-long celebration, alumni recounted memories of their time working for The Daily Illini and WPGU.

Bernard Schoenburg, The Daily Illini, ’76

“I worked there from the fall of ’74 through my graduation in ’76. My favorite memory might be when I was very new as a reporter, and I went undercover to unlock a story that we heard about. There was a concert of a very popular band at the time — Jethro Tull — at the assembly hall, which is now State Farm Center. We heard that a fraternity had sent a member, maybe a pledge, to buy a block of tickets — perhaps 100 — and they were planning on scalping them. They were $6 tickets, and they were planning on selling them for $20. That was illegal in Illinois at the time, you couldn’t sell a ticket for more than the printed price. So, with authorization of the publisher of the paper at the time and money from a drawer that he had, me and my college roommate, who was not on the paper but had broad shoulders, went to the fraternity, bought two tickets, we spent $20 each. We came back to The Daily Illini, which at that time was in the basement of Illini Hall, and called back the fraternity to get their comment. We did a story on what they were doing.

Ultimately, the ticket sale policy at Assembly Hall changed. I think our story was an impetus, if not the impetus, and no longer did they sell blocks of tickets to organizations like that. They went to a lottery system so you would get into a lottery to see when you would go to the ticket window to purchase tickets so people would no longer have to wait all night in a line outside the ticket window which was what was happening and was kind of a bad deal, particularly for those working for their fraternity. So we made change, and we won an investigative award. It helped send me on a path that turned into a 44-year-long career in journalism at three places, and I think we did a service. The undercover stuff doesn’t always happen these days — there’s an ethical question to it — but I think we did a service and it was a good story, and it was what The Daily Illini should be about from time to time.”

John Hackman, The Daily Illini, ’68

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“Probably my favorite memory was when I got a page-one story, and they ran it with a 72-point railroad gothic headline. I stayed and watched it come off the press. There was something about the student senate, but we had a big hole on page one and we needed something. The truth is, they expected it to be a bigger story than it was, but at 9:30 at night, you can’t redesign the whole paper. I reported a story that, in all honesty, probably didn’t deserve that big of a headline, but it sure was nice to see it displayed there. 

Some of my other favorite memories were from when I worked as a night editor. You’d put the paper to bed and you’d come back there at midnight. The pressman would say it’s all clear, and the guy with the cigar would hit the button. That press would spool up, nothing would run through it yet, it would just get rotating up to speed – the whole building just shook. Then they would put the paper through, it went through so fast you couldn’t see it until it came out the other end. It was the greatest thrill in the world to watch that happen.”

Bette Anderson, WPGU, ’58

“My favorite memory at WPGU was meeting my husband, Art. He was the chief engineer for WPGU. In ’57, my boyfriend at the time went to (The University of) Miami at Ohio, and he was the chief engineer at their student radio station. He came to visit me, the only time he came to visit me on campus, and I brought him to WPGU. Turns out, he and Art had corresponded, both being engineers. I really knew nothing about the station, but I fell in love with it, and I got a job as an engineer which is totally different from what an engineer is today. The DJ would be in the studio, soundproofed and all, and I worked the controls and spun the turntable — I’d turn on the music the at was on these big transmitters. I became very good friends with (Art), and when I eventually broke up with Rich from Ohio, we started dating each other. We started seeing each other seriously, we worked out all the little problems we had, and we were married in August of that year. We had not dated for too long, but we’d been together almost every day because I was working at the station.”


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