Farewell from our Adviser Tim McKenzie


Tim McKenzie, Adviser of The Lamp

If you haven’t been to Menard Hall 2275, you’ve missed something.

You’ve missed the piles of old newspapers that I perpetually told the students I was going to sort and throw out next week (and I promise I’m going to do that next week after this magazine is finished). You’ve missed a lot of other clutter. You missed hearing an animated Matt Shaver teaching on the other side of the wall.

But most of all, you’ve missed a group of students having fun, learning and doing something important.

I will miss the camaraderie, late nights laying out a paper and the triumph and excitement. Most of all, I will miss every student who took part in The Lamp.

It’s bittersweet to be stepping down as adviser of The Lamp. With the retirement of my longtime philosophy colleague, Terry Logsdon, I thought it would be nice to decrease the number of courses that I prep each semester. So, I asked and was given permission to teach only philosophy.

Whenever someone on the copy desk would leave the Decatur Herald & Review, where I worked for more than seven years, my now-retired colleague Dick Zaker would do a top-10 list of memorable moments from the person. With that in mind, I’ll offer my top-10 most memorable things about advising The Lamp.

  1. Eating pizza and working late to put out a paper. We usually ate dinner and designed the paper in the evening. Sitting in The Lamp office till 9 p.m., trying to finish pages, can be exhilarating, frustrating and memorable.
  2. Driving to Virden. The Lamp printed in Virden, and although I liked seeing the seasons change and the farmers work, I really enjoyed putting my hands on the paper. It’s a fun, tangible reward.
  3. Taking a celebratory trip to St. Louis one semester. We ate lunch with Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It was fun to hear five Lincoln Land students ask Messenger about his work. We then explored St. Louis and viewed a history of print journalism exhibit at the public library. I also rented a motorized scooter, and I learned their overweight professor in his 40s is a lot better at riding a scooter than them.
  4. The staff winning 120 awards, as well as the Illinois Community College Journalism Association’s annual scholarship every year it was awarded. I’ve seen peer institutions’ papers, and those awards are a testament to LLCC students’ hard work. They consistently do a great job, even against schools more than five times larger and have newsroom annual budgets over $100,000.
  5. Attending journalism conferences. We attended an in-person or virtual conference every semester. We met other traveling throughout Illinois. We met amazing journalists who always left us inspired.
  1. Editing stories. It was always my practice for new students to sit next to me while I read their stories. I learned a lot from editors doing that with me. Every mistake seems larger when you’re watching your editor fix it. It’s interesting to sit with a nervous student and discuss the work line by line. After a few months, it’s gratifying to only change a couple sentences.
  2. Seeing students lead. I’ve had editors who really took on leadership. They’d run meetings, lay out pages, go to events without prompting and write stories without encouragement. I loved having them email me a story I’d forgotten they mentioned writing a week ago.
  3. Keeping up with students after graduation. I’m friends with many former Lamp staff on social media. I get texts and emails from others. It’s nice when they stop by after a semester or two. It’s fun to build lasting relationships.
  4. Seeing students succeed after graduation. Ryan Wilson was my first editor. He’s doing an amazing job covering disability issues at his own startup Team Trust. Kallie Cox just left the Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale to become a reporter for the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina. Meredith Howard recently graduated from Baylor University and started at McClatchy newspapers. Leanna Churchill is a sports reporter for Channel 1450. Some are writing for four-year student papers. Many do communications in the area It’s fun to see them using the skills they learned at The Lamp.
  5. Knowing every student and having a story about them. I can look at every byline and tell you something funny they said or did, or a story they wrote. It’s nice to have such a vivid awareness of students even after eight years.

I consider myself a journalist. I started my master’s degree program in journalism 19 years ago. I’ve been working for a newspaper or teaching it ever since. I even married a journalist (my amazing wife, Kate). I love journalism I worry about the future of journalism. I hope I can do something more to support journalism and future journalists, but for now, it’s time to focus elsewhere. I’m sad to say goodbye, but I am excited that something new will emerge for journalism at Lincoln Land.