Confidence to Take the Next Step
I was a small-town kid with little understanding of how the real world worked when I arrived on the University of Idaho campus as a freshman 46 years ago. Four years later, in 1976, I graduated with a journalism degree, some big dreams and a much better idea of who I wanted to be.
I thank the University of Idaho for that.
My experience was similar to thousands of other naïve but eager students who come to the Palouse every year. Whether we leave U of I with degrees in journalism, engineering or agriculture, the campus experience changes us and prepares us for our place in the world.
My four years included a semester working for the Idaho Argonaut, the student newspaper where I wrote my first real stories and saw my byline on newsprint for the first time. As sports editor, I wrote about football, the hiring of an athletic director and myriad other things. Most of my stories were pretty bad, but the experience of working with editors for the first time in a newsroom under real deadlines was invaluable.
The experience at the Argonaut, which celebrated its 120th anniversary last fall, underscores what is good about Idaho. It is a small newsroom with a personal touch. And you can still walk across the gorgeous U of I campus to your class in minutes, even in ice and snow, and professors know your name. My four years living on campus at the Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity house were exactly what I needed.
It prepared me for a job my junior year working for the small daily paper in Moscow. By my senior year, I was driving to a job at the Lewiston Tribune, answering phone calls and covering high school and college games. From there, I was hired as a full-time journalist at newspapers in Yakima and Bellevue, Washington, Santa Rosa, California, and finally The Seattle Times. In 2016, I was promoted to executive editor of The Seattle Times, overseeing incredibly talented journalists from around the country in the Pacific Northwest’s largest newsroom.
When I reconnected with U of I 13 years ago, I quickly realized how much I missed the place and the huge debt I owed. I’ve since tried to give back as an advisor for the Argonaut, the School of Journalism and Mass Media and my fraternity. I drive to Moscow at least twice a year and always try to talk to a class, Argonaut staff and FIJI undergraduates. I always come away energized and feeling that I get far more than I give.
I encourage all Idaho graduates to do the same. Give your time and expertise to the university that shaped you and to students who could use mentoring — just as you needed it years ago.
My time at Idaho gave a small-town kid from Fruitland more than an education. It gave me the chance to build the skills and confidence to take the next step, and the step after that — all the way from Moscow to Seattle.
Article by Don Shelton
Published in the spring 2019 issue of Here We Have Idaho.