Ball State journalism professor featured in book about Wisconsin student newspaper

Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

February 27, 2008

With a debt of $137,700 and only $43.71 in the bank, shutdown seemed inevitable for the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Daily Cardinal. During 1995, after a year of unchecked accounting, the leadership of the newspaper realized there was no money coming in, as an entire year's advertising had not been billed.

Vince Filak, assistant professor of journalism at Ball State and faculty adviser for the campus newspaper, The Ball State Daily News, recalls those tumultuous days in the new book, "It Doesn't End with Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal." The book was written by Allison Hantschel, a former editor of the Daily Cardinal. Ironically, chapter 13 features Filak as an undergraduate working at the paper when it faced shutdown.

"There are things I don't understand why we did," Filak said. "All I can tell you is that I've always believed there was never a problem so horrific I couldn't outwork it. I eventually tried to outwork it."

Bills were mailed to advertisers, although staffers were uncertain advertisers would pay them. But the payments started coming in.

"We went from guaranteed closing to having a shot," Filak said. "We just worked, and I gave up almost everything. Every day, we were excited, but afraid at the same time, to get the mail."

With the odds against them, what was left of the Daily Cardinal staff asked student government for money to start printing again. Student government was willing to front the money, and after repeated efforts to figure the budget, the paper could print for at least a month.

Starting over was rough. There was always the question of whether the paper would live to see the next month, but it was better than nothing. The costs were incalculable, but Filak said the sacrifices he made for the paper were worth it.

"No matter what else I do, I don't think it will have the far reaching impact that did," he said. "I don't think I'll live long enough to see it again. The Cardinal is special. I can't quantify it. There comes a choice, and you make a choice. It's one I'll stand behind the rest of my life."

The lessons learned at the Daily Cardinal are ones Filak will carry throughout the rest of his career. As faculty adviser for the Daily News, he wants students to have a better experience with student journalism.

"The learning aspects are phenomenal," he said. "That is why student media is so important. You learn without a safety net. You play the hand you are dealt. It's really hard to explain. It's a sense of belonging. Caring. A sense that it changes you forever. I don't know who I was before that, but I know who I am now."

By Jennifer Strempka

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