Grungy. Dark. Cluttered.
Those are just a few of the words Michael Longinow uses to describe the Daily Illini newsroom he first stepped foot in as a master’s student in 1983.
Here’s another: home.
“My hunger to make my studies real brought me into the DI, where I did reporting on Champaign and Urbana,” says the Biola University media and journalism professor. “I remember that newsroom as a little dark — greenish fluorescent light bouncing off dark paneling, covering cluttered desks and leaving shadows.
“It was an old building, I recall. And somehow, the grungy feel of stairwells and hallways was part of the ethos. We were getting dirt under our fingernails in the hard, thankless work of reporting, writing, editing — sidewalk level journalism in central Illinois. I loved it.
“And my mentor, the one who inspired me to keep coming back to that newsroom, was Bob Reid. He taught me reporting, but he mostly taught me to ask better questions, to never believe my writing was done, to have a skepticism about the unquestioned things. And he listened. He just sat there in his office and let me prattle on about life.
“And I learned from him that listening is where real journalism begins. I took those lessons in the DI and wrote a master’s project on red-lining in the shredded portions of Champaign, where urban renewal had left empty huge portions of what had been the homes of real people, part of the great diaspora of inner cities across the U.S.”