‘The only thing we had in common was the desire to be on the adventure’: Illini Media alums reflect on their times as editors, reporters, students


Sydney Laput

Ileana Gomez, director of Seed Montessori, discusses the amazement of seeing everyone come together to reflect on their time with Illini Media during the Illini Media 150 Reunion.

By Jonathan Alday, Assistant Sports Editor

Illini from across the country reconvened at the Illini Media offices, finding familiar faces and reminiscing on how their careers have been impacted through The Daily Illini, WPGU and The Illio.

When speaking to alumni across the company’s history, they all missed something in common: the camaraderie.

“The newsroom, the late nights, the deadlines, the wire machines going and the bells going when something really important happened made us feel like we were right in the middle of it,” said Toni Giovanetti-Denis (‘84). 

Denis was a former features writer, hotel magazine editor and now works with artificial intelligence company Seeflection.

“It was like we were real journalists in a time when we were still proving ourselves,” Giovanetti-Denis said.

“Everyone got along pretty well,” said Gregory Miller (‘76). “Although we did argue. I’ll admit that.”

Miller was a career reporter and editor for various publications in Florida, most notably working for the Orlando Sentinel for 30 years.

“(The Daily Illini) was our paper: We could say whatever we wanted into it; we could decide what the agenda for what we thought was important,” Miller said. “We weren’t passive students. We were covering the things that were going on; we were informing people on how the University works; we were helping promote our careers as journalists. It was a good start for being a reporter or editor in the real world.”

For Miles Harvey (‘84), it was the relationships he developed with his fellow editors and reporters that made the experience truly memorable.

“My closest friends are all people I knew from The DI,” Harvey said. “There’s a group of us who are still like family. We spent a lot of time together. In one way, the basement of Illini Hall is still with us in our hearts, but it’s with us in our everyday lives.”

Harvey, now an author who teaches creative writing at DePaul University, talked more about how the physical space impacted him throughout his years at Illinois.

“I actually miss the basement itself,” Harvey said. “That place reeked. It was dirty, nasty but we had a great time there. We had a lot of freedom there. It was our place 24/7. We all grew up together there. It was sitting side by side at terminals with these guys just laughing or looking at each other’s shoulders and taking a look at each other’s work.”

One of those who he now considers family is Ileana Gomez (‘83), who now is director of Seed Montessori in Oak Park.

“The openness and the variety of characters, coming back tonight and seeing some of these people which I haven’t even seen for a long time, it’s amazing to recognize again the variety of people that were together,” Gomez said. “You’re watching people coming into their full lives. You reflect back on how it was. It’s just a remarkable variety of people.”

Like many organizations on campus, The Daily Illini, and Illini Media as a whole, have created communities that have withstood the test of time. While the dynamic and culture of the era was a major impact, Gomez knows there was something prominent within the Illini Media community.

“The only thing we had in common was the desire to be on the adventure,” Gomez said.

While it may be another five years until the next official Illini Media reunion, the bonds, experiences and tight deadlines that all these alumni hold so close to their hearts will carry across borders, all tying back to a basement newsroom in Champaign-Urbana.



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